The American Legion David Chavez Post 1982 in Ansbach, Germany, formed a Junior Shooting Sports Program in 2015.

FODPAL post teaches youth a character-building sport

American Legion David Chavez Post 1982 in Ansbach, Germany, formed a Junior Shooting Sports Program (JSSP) in 2015 with several goals in mind – to support the Ansbach military community, to give youth a safe and enjoyable sport to learn, and to compete in the Legion's Junior 3-Position Air Rifle Tournament. Last November, the post registered its JSSP team for the Legion's 2016-2017 postal tournament, becoming the only post in the Department of France to do so.

"(The Legion's air rifle) tournament has always appealed to Post 1982," said Christopher Buchanan, the post's air rifle coach and first vice commander. "Just about every town in Germany has an air rifle range so some Legion members take part with their local shooting club and wanted to bring the experience to the American youth who are stationed here with their parents."

The 19 marksmen on Post 1982's air rifle team practice three days a week at Ansbach High School's JROTC indoor rifle range. The team started with 12 high school students and then recently seven eighth-graders joined. As a coach, Buchanan said he likes the character-building values that shooting teaches youth, which are not always taught in other sports.

"Personal courage is taught because the shooters compete as a team but shoot individually. When they are on the firing line it is up to them to scientifically figure out what is going right or wrong, especially when it comes to zeroing the rifle," Buchanan said. "Discipline and focus are key to staying calm and keeping a good frame of mind when you make a bad shot. And teamwork and supporting each other is very high as it takes respect and understanding when a team member has an off day while shooting."

Another aspect of air rifle shooting that Buchanan likes is that it's not a male-only sport.

"The thing that I like most about coaching the team is the youth shooting on a competitive level no matter what their sex is. When you watch a 5-foot-2-inch female compete in a sport against a 6-foot-2-inch male and win, it shows you how women can compete on the same field as men," he said.

As for the marksmen on the Legion's air rifle team, they like the mental challenge of shooting and "remembering everything from position, breathing, running through their mental checklist and dealing with adversity," Buchanan said. They also liked how impressed their parents were with their shooting skills and commitment to the sport, as well as teaching members of Post 1982 how to shoot an air rifle.

"The air rifle team is important to the post because we try to live up to The American Legion's pillar for Children and Youth," Buchanan said. "And I am finding out that the team is important to the community because the team can practice year-round while other sports are only for a couple of months at a time on our military base. This extended season lets the youth take part in something meaningful after school as opposed to sitting at home being bored or playing video games if there is not a sport that they want to participate in during the particular season. I am looking forward to continuing to watch the team grow."