For six members of the U.S. Army marksmanship unit, the first purpose of being on target is to protect lives. The chance to win an Olympic or Paralympic gold medal is a nice bonus.
The band of soldiers will be the backbone of the U.S. shooting squad at the London Olympics and Paralympics after Staff Sgt. Michael McPhail became the sixth man from the unit to make the U.S. national team Tuesday. A seventh soldier could still qualify for the team. McPhail topped the U.S. Olympic team trial match for men's rifle – prone position – at Fort Benning. Ga.
"Six guys are going, but it took the entire unit to get us there," McPhail said. "Our gunsmiths are truly world-class and they give us a huge advantage. And I'm confident we aren't done yet. I think we are going to put another soldier on the team."
McPhail qualified for his first Olympic games after a three-day performance on his home range. He will compete against and alongside Sgt. Eric Uptagrafft, shotgun shooters Staff Sgt. Josh Richmond, Sgt. Glenn Eller and Sgt.Vincent Hancock. Sgt. Josh Olson will compete in the Paralympics.
The last slot on the Olympic Shooting team will be decided June 11 in men's three-position rifle at Pool Range.
McPhail won a bronze medal in the London World Cup. To win he had to beat out Matthew Emmons, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the event and world record holder.