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Under Secretary of the U.S. Army Westphal Rekindles President Roosevelt’s Marksmanship Mandate as National Matches Open

By Steve Cooper, CMP Writer

CAMP PERRY, OHIO – Featured speaker Dr. Joseph W. Westphal, Under Secretary of the U.S. Army, echoed many of the sentiments of former president Theodore Roosevelt as he officially opened the 2011 National Matches during the First Shot Ceremony here on Rodriguez Range, Monday evening 11 July.
Dr. Joseph W. Westphal, featured speaker of the 2011 National Matches First Shot Ceremony, addresses a crowd of several hundred civilian and military shooters, members of the public and invited dignitaries.

“Though the world has changed considerably in the last century, it is just as unsettled as it was when President Roosevelt established this competition in 1903,” Dr. Westphal said as it relates to defense preparedness, marksmanship training and competition.

“If he (Roosevelt) could see what all of you have accomplished here through the National Matches, I know he would take pride in having contributed to what you have sustained so well and for so long,” he said.
Army SFC Sene Polu, left, joins Dr. Joseph W. Westphal after firing the first and second ceremonial first shots of the 2011 National Matches. Dr. Westphal fired the first shot with a CMP-reconditioned M1 Garand rifle and for the first time ever, SFC Polu fired a second official opening shot on a second target on Rodriguez Range at Camp Perry.

Dr. Westphal’s comments came during the annual celebration of the opening the National Matches which began in 1903 as a mandate from U.S. Congress to establish an annual event which features marksmanship training and recognition of national excellence in competitive target shooting, regarded by many as the ‘World Series of the Shooting Sports.’ The Matches, which are open to the public, feature pistol and rifle competition by the nation’s finest shooters, civilian and military alike in addition to clinics, workshops and games events.

The National Matches are the result of a successful partnership between the Civilian Marksmanship Program, the National Rifle Association and the Ohio National Guard (ONG), with the assistance of virtually all U.S. military service branches, active and reserve.
Members of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) led by CPT Ryan Edwards (right), prepare to deliver the American Flag to Master of Ceremonies Gary Anderson, Director of Civilian Marksmanship, Emeritus at the opening of the First Shot Ceremony.

The Under Secretary’s address followed a tactical maneuver demonstrated by ONG’s Company B, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne). The assault maneuver, narrated by MSG Kevin Colwell and executed by a mock combat foot patrol of Special Forces (Green Berets) led by CPT Ryan Edwards, ONG which delivered the American Flag to master of ceremonies Gary Anderson, Director of Civilian Marksmanship, Emeritus. The flag was presented to Lorain High School Junior ROTC cadets from Lorain High School (Ohio) for raising on the Memorial Plaza flagstaff. The colors will fly over Camp Perry’s ranges throughout the five-week National Matches.
Gary Anderson hands off the American Flag to the Lorain High School Junior ROTC Cadet color guard for flag-raising. At left SGM Kevin Colwell narrates the proceedings as CPT Edwards exits the parade ground.

Originally planned as an air assault maneuver via Blackhawk helicopter, the Green Berets entered the parade grounds on foot from adjoining Petrarca Range. Violent weather in the afternoon precluded the aircraft from flying from Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base near Columbus, Ohio.

During his remarks, Dr. Westphal related to the crowd of several hundred civilian and military shooters, members of the public and dignitaries the wishes of President Roosevelt who spearheaded the still-current legislation that mandated regular marksmanship training and competition. Roosevelt, who served as an Army colonel during the Spanish-American War, witnessed firsthand how unprepared U.S. soldiers were victimized in battle. Despite winning the conflict, the U.S. suffered disproportionate casualties due to the lack of firearms training.
Dr. Westphal joins the Lorain High School JROTC color guard at the conclusion of the First Shot Ceremony. From left, cadets are PFC Jacob Quinones, CPT Alexis Acosta, CPT Haley Dalton and CPT Victor Acosta.

“So I bring these old historic notes of long-forgotten battles, not because they are curiosities, but because they remind us of why Americans began gathering here over a century ago,” Dr. Westphal said.

“It was because they knew the terrible consequences of not being ready for war. In establishing the National Matches at Camp Perry, they promoted the importance of marksmanship in the nation’s defense. Today the Civilian Marksmanship Program trains some 400 marksmanship instructors a year. In addition, 200,000 to 300,000 young people and adults receive training in marksmanship and firearms safety through clubs and junior ROTC,” he said.

“In a troubled world, Army readiness remains essential to the national defense. The War Department struggled mightily in 1898 to man, train, equip and sustain an army for war. Today our ability to defend the homeland could not be stronger and more capable. You have the best Army, the best Marine Corps, the best Navy and the best Air Force in the world - an all-volunteer force that is experienced, dedicated and well-trained.

“I want to congratulate you on all your accomplishments to get these events off the ground today. Through community efforts, through extensive volunteerism and hard competition, you have all contributed to our national defense. I greatly appreciate the hundreds of volunteers who have worked so hard to prepare the ranges and run the competition. They are carrying on a vital tradition of defense preparation.

“The thousands of competitors who will take part in these matches follow on the heels of millions who have benefitted directly over the decades from the marksmanship training and safety programs promoted here.

“Reflecting with regret on the casualties the U.S. took in the Spanish-American War, President Roosevelt said ‘The great body of our citizens shoot less as time goes on. We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys and indeed among all classes as well as in the military services, by every means of our power. Thus and not otherwise may we be able to assist in preserving peace in the world. The first step in the direction of preparation to avert war, if possible, and to be fit for war, if it should come, is to teach men to shoot,’” Dr. Westphal added.
Dr. Westphal fires the first ceremonial shot to open the 2011 National Matches.

Upon the conclusion of his remarks, Dr. Westphal and a special guest, Army SFC Sene Polu, fired the official first and second ceremonial opening shots of the Matches. Dr. Westphal took aim and fired a CMP-reconditioned World War II M1 Garand rifle at a remotely-detonated explosive target 600 yards downrange. SFC Polu followed, using the same rifle with the second shot, also fired at an explosive target two firing points away.
SFC Sene Polu is a native of American Samoa, South Pacific and a wounded veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Here he fires the second ceremonial first shot of the 2011 National Matches.

SFC Polu suffered substantial wounds all over his body from the detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Dr. Westphal said he invited SFC Polu to assist in opening the Matches in honor of his service and that of thousands of American servicemen and women who have put themselves in harm’s way for the preservation of the nation’s defense.
A demolitions team rigged the ceremonial targets of Dr. Westphal and SFC Polu to explode in a star shape as each shooter fired toward their targets.

For more information about the 2011 National Matches, log onto the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s Website at To view photos from the First Shot Ceremony and other National Match events, log onto