By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
The 2016 Summer Olympics are about to get started. Is your competitive side kicking in yet?
For several military athletes, it’s already in overdrive, since they’re competing in Rio this year. We highlighted many of them in a blog earlier this week. Here are some more who you can cheer on!
Nathan Schrimsher, Army:
Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher, 24, of Roswell, New Mexico, might be the most well-rounded of all of this year’s military Olympians. He’ll be competing in the modern pentathlon, a five-sport, one-day event involving swimming, cross-country running, fencing, pistol shooting and equestrian show jumping. Schrimsher finished third while qualifying for the team at the Pan American Games in Toronto last year, and he posted the best performance of any U.S. male competitor in nearly a decade this past May while on the World Cup circuit.
Schrimsher joined the Army in 2013. He is currently a noncommissioned officer and serves as a motor transport operator. He’s also part of the Army World Class Athlete Program.
David Higgins, Marines/Air Force Academy:
Marine Corps 2nd Lt. David Higgins has the honor of representing not one, but two of the armed services in Rio. Higgins, 21, of San Clemente, California, recently graduated from the Air Force Academy, but he made the decision to cross-commission into the Marines afterward, following in the footsteps of his father, a Marine colonel.
The newly commissioned officer has a lot to be proud of, including having earned a spot on the 2016 Olympic team, where he’ll be competing in 50-meter prone rifle shooting. After the games, Higgins is set to attend The Basic School, where he’ll prepare for duty as a company-grade officer.
Cale Simmons, Air Force:
1st Lt. Cale Simmons, 25, of Rocklin, California, is a 2013 graduate of the Air Force Academy, where he excelled at pole vaulting as a four-time All-American. He made the Olympic team after finishing second at the pole vault finals in early July (just behind Army 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks). He cleared the bar at 5.65 meters (18 feet, 6.4 inches).
Simmons spent his first two years out of the academy with the 700th Contracting Squadron at Kapaun Air Station, Germany. About a year ago he was assigned to the Air Force World Class Athlete Program. According to USA Track & Field, he’s ranked 36th in the world in men’s pole vault.
Apparently his skills run in the family – both of his siblings, Rob and Rachel, are also in the Air Force and also grew up as competitive pole vaulters.
The following five athletes are all members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit who will compete on the U.S. shooting team:
Glenn Eller, Army:
Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller, 34, of Houston, Texas, has some impressive titles — five-time Olympian and 2008 gold medalist. He’s one of the U.S. team’s most experienced shooters. This year, he’ll look to win gold again in the double trap shotgun contest (that’s shooting at two clay disks that are flung into the air simultaneously, for those who don’t know).
After the 2012 London Games, Eller, who has been in the Army since 2006, worked as a marksmanship instructor while deployed to Afghanistan. He began shooting at age 8 and started his career in 1999, but in high school, he was a pole vaulter.
Michael McPhail, Army:
Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail, 34, of Darlington, Wisconsin, isn’t a newbie to the Olympics – he was part of the 2012 shooting team, too, and just barely missed the finals in the 50-meter rifle prone. This year, he and Eller both earned automatic spots on the team thanks to their high standings on the international competitive shooting scene.
McPhail, who has been a competitive shooter since 1996, enlisted in the Army in 2004. Considering all of his accomplishments, he was assigned to the AMU the following year.
Dan Lowe, Army:
Spc. Dan Lowe, 23, of Olympia, Washington, will be competing in two shooting events at his first Olympics: the men’s 10-meter air rifle and the 50-meter three-position rifle. He’s been in the AMU for two years.
Joshua Richmond, Army:
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Richmond, 30, of Hillsgrove, Pennsylvania, will be joining Eller in Rio for the double trap shotgun competition. It’s his second Olympic appearance.
Richmond joined the Army in 2004 and is part of the AMU’s demonstration team, which helps with recruitment. In 2011, he deployed to Afghanistan as part of a team that trained and helped Afghan National Army soldiers and coalition forces in marksmanship.
Vincent Hancock, Army:
Last, but definitely not least, is former Sgt. Vincent Hancock, 27, of Port Charlotte, Florida. He’ll be heading to Rio this year to defend his two-time title as Olympic champion. Hancock won the gold medal in skeet shooting in London and in Beijing, becoming the first shotgun shooter to ever win consecutive Olympic golds. He has also set several world records in the sport over the years.
Hancock joined the Army in 2006 as a motor vehicle operator. He left the AMU in 2012 with the goal of opening up a shooting academy with his dad, but he has said that Army service gave him the opportunity to learn to perform at a higher level.
The gentlemen below are former military Olympians who I thought deserved a mention, too:
Bret Erickson, Army:
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Bret Erickson may no longer be competing professionally, but his shooting career has spanned decades. Erickson was a trap shooter for Team USA in Barcelona, Atlanta, Athens and Beijing in 2008. He’d been on a national team since 1984, even shooting at the Athens Olympics just four weeks after he had a pacemaker installed after his heart stopped.
Erickson, now 55 and originally from Bennington, Nebraska, joined the AMU in 1983 and stayed in the Army until he retired in 2005. In the years since then, he has remained active as a shooting coach.
Lloyd “Butch” Keaser, Marines:
Lloyd “Butch” Keaser, a five-year veteran of the Marines, was the first black man to win an Olympic medal in wrestling. Keaser, who is now 66 and lives in his native Maryland, took silver in the 1976 games in Montreal. Before making history, he won the gold medal at the 1973 world wrestling championships in Iran.
Keaser graduated from the Naval Academy in 1972, where he was named that year’s outstanding athlete and was a two-time All-American. As an active-duty Marine, he rose to the rank of captain and was an instructor at Officer Candidate School, as well as an expert pistol and rifle shooter. After active-duty service, he commanded a Marine Corps Reserve combat engineer platoon in Baltimore, Maryland.
Be sure to cheer on all our military athletes while you’re watching the games in Rio this year! Go Team USA!
Related content: 10 Military Athletes Who Are Also Olympians: Part 1
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