PARKERSBURG - Parkersburg South High School's Air Force Junior ROTC is forming a marksmanship team, thanks in part to a local grant.
Senior Master Sgt. John Gersper said officials have been working to form the team for about two years and hope to begin postal competitions this fall.
In postal competitions the students fire at targets and are later scored against other teams. Gersper said he hopes to see some live competitions early next year.
Photo by Michael Erb
Parkersburg South Air Force Junior ROTC Senior Master Sgt. John Gersper, left, helps Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Dalton Simmons, a PSHS junior, set up a stand for a target shooting demonstration at the school.
"So far we've at least 40 cadets that are interested in participating," he said.
Gersper said officials are speaking with the 1092nd West Virginia National Guard Engineer Battalion about using the Blizzard Drive armory as a possible shooting location.
The ROTC program was able to purchase equipment for the team after receiving a $6,000 grant from the Blennerhassett Friends of NRA, a local chapter of the Friends of NRA. Equipment include the target rifles, rifle stands, sighting scopes, eye and ear protection and firing mats.
Chairman Steve DiBetta said the grant is part of the group's mission to help educate youth on firearm safety and the proper use of firearms. The volunteer chapter is looking to award other grants as well as supporting area education programs.
Gersper said the program requires an intense amount of training for both the administrators and the students, everything from proper scoring of targets to safety and maintaining equipment. The process could not have happened without the school's permission he said, which was granted two years ago by Principal Tom Eschbacher.
"I told them they had my blessing," Eschbacher said. "It just gives us another opportunity to get out there and see other schools and to compete in marksmanship."
Eschbacher said he also hoped the team would give students planning to enter the military some initial training in marksmanship and the necessary discipline to excel.
"For students going into the military, it is a skill you need to possess," he said.
Members of the marksmanship team, the Blennerhassett Friends of the NRA and school administrators gathered Wednesday at Parkersburg South to see a demonstration of the equipment and shooting positions, though the cadets did not shoot.