Editors Note: This is the second post in our new Department Series. The first was on the Dance Department. Keep following along as we make our way through all the departments. And for an overview of it all, see our Department Series Introduction.
This past summer we got to enjoy the upgrades to the rifle range that Facilities Director Garrett O’Dell and his Green Team implemented. This doubled the size of the rifle range and made storage more efficient. We love it!
Now that we’ve gotten used to this new facility, and are looking at the needs of the Rifle Program, I thought I’d share what we have to look forward to in 2015.
Rifle for Summer 2016
Our rifle staff will spend a lot of time during Staff Training focusing on teaching skills in marksmanship as well as troubleshooting camper shooting issues. We think these scenario type teaching exercises offer a chance for some exciting growth in the rifle activity.
We feel that focusing on the quality of targets, rather than quantity of shooting, will teach a camper to take her time and focus on shooting well. It’s something we’re really looking forward to because there’s so much opportunity here for related teaching activities on:
- Firearm safety and seriousness.
- The “symbolism” of focus — goal-setting and hitting the target.
- Ammunition as resources and how we use resources.
We’ve also decided to cap sign-ups for the rifle activity to keep the camper-to-counselor ratio smaller so that everyone is safer and getting more attention on their shooting skills.
With that in mind, we’re closing rifle to Unit One Junior Camp but perhaps reserving a few spots for Unit Two. (Read more about why below.)
Mini Campers will still get a chance to take Rifle as a way to introduce the activity.
You might remember that Elizabeth wrote a blog a few years back about how .22 ammo was scarce and expensive. It’s more readily available than a few years ago but it is very expensive, and that’s why we want to include the resources piece. Camp is a place to learn about the world in a different way. And it’s always good to have someone else besides mom and dad talking about why we shouldn’t waste energy or resources or time or anything, really!
We’re excited about these changes and think they will create better, more consistent shooters who will be able to beat the Greenbrier Boys by even more!
So how do we get there?
Before the rifle range opens
Because rifle is such a serious activity, there’s some prep that happens before anyone even thinks about holding – much less shooting – a gun.
And that happens with staff even before it happens with campers.
During Staff Training, all members of the Rifle Department take Rifle School. This part of the staff actually comes to camp earlier than the rest of staff to to get all the required hours in for National Rifle Association (NRA) certification. Any members of the Rifle Department who aren’t already NRA Certified go through the training process to be certified, while already NRA Certified staff are re-trained and re-tested. So all Rifle Department Staff are fully NRA Certified before camp begins.
As I said, we’re putting a greater emphasis on teaching how to shoot even more skillfully this year — the staff will get extra training in this area. We’ve always had this Rifle School, and NRA Certification for the staff at Camp Alleghany, but this year we’re kicking it up a notch to make rifle even better.
So, say a camper was having a hard time shooting from a particular position — prone, kneeling, standing — the counselors didn’t always have extra training on how to teach the campers how to troubleshoot that, and try different things until that position became more successful. This extra training is going to expand the Rifle Staff’s technical and communication skills to make the Rifle activity even more focused on gaining effective and even advanced skills.
Once staff is fully trained and certified, they take to the range with the campers.
So what does that look like?
Day-to-day on the rifle range
All campers, even if they are themselves expert markswomen, or have taken Rifle previously, still begin each new camp season by going over or reviewing the basics. This takes up the first day of class and there is no shooting until the second day of class.
During Mini Camp, they may not actually shoot until the 3rd day — they take extra time to go over these things with the younger set.
First they go over rules, range commands, parts of the gun, and how to hold and load it.
Then they cover their specific shooting positions — prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing.
During the rest of the three weeks, campers take turns shooting a number of targets and working through the various bodily positions to gain accuracy, consistency, and technical feedback for improvements.
But as I said, instead of just shooting as fast as campers can to get through as many targets as possible, we want to increase our teaching emphasis on focus, skill, taking your time, and working to make every target a good one.
Program size and safety
In spite of the dangers in shooting, Rifle has always been one of our safest programs simply because there is SO MUCH emphasis on the safety concerns, added training, NRA Certification, and etc. that EVERYONE understands just how safe this program MUST BE. It is rigorously monitored for that safety and we’ve done a great job on this front over the years.
Where there is the potential for Rifle to be less safe is just in sheer numbers of campers who want to take Rifle. With what has been a very full program, there have just been too many people up on the range. That’s why we’re closing the program to Unit One Junior Campers going forward.
We expanded the Rifle Range to accommodate for our increasingly popular program, but it’s still just too popular!
So why did we decide to begin Rifle with Unit Two Junior Campers and up? Well, it has nothing to do with the age and/or size of our youngest campers in Unit One Junior Camp. The Rifle Department is trained in how to work with even the littlest shooters.
But we decided that, if we had to make a cut-off somewhere just to accommodate sheer numbers, that having Rifle be something that the youngest campers could “look forward to,” once they get into Unit Two Junior Camp (ages 10 and up or having completed fourth grade), would make sense for the program as a whole.
We still want Mini Campers to experience Rifle, and we have the trained staff and appropriate size guns, along with the right number of staff to ensure safe ratios. It’s just that if they’re on the younger side at Mini Camp, they’ll just need to understand they’ll have a little break before they can take Rifle again.
Rifle remains one of our most popular programs at camp. You can read more about rifle in our older blog entries on safety, training, and skills by following this link.
— Taylor Fellows, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls