Staff Sgt. Ty Cooper, a service rifle shooter/instructor with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, was selected as the Military Marksmanship Association Soldier of the Year for 2011. Retired Lt. Col. Robert Harbison, the MMA president, made the announcement at the organization’s annual membership meeting at the Pool International Shooting Complex. Harbison presented the award to Cooper — a .45- caliber pistol donated by the Smith and Wesson Corp.
“It means quite a bit to me to win this award going up against a couple guys who secured slots for the Olympics,” Cooper said. “I honestly didn’t think I would win and had to do a double take at the screen to see if it was my name they had actually called out. I think the thing I am most proud of was winning the two biggest matches that we have in our season in the same year.”
A Mariposa, Calif., native, Cooper had a remarkable year on and off the range. Cooper claimed his first Interservice individual championship at Marine Corps Base Quantico (Va.) in July. He also won the long-range individual championship and was a member of the overall team champions, making it a clean sweep.
A few weeks later, Cooper won the overall National Service Rifle Championship at the National High-Power Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio. All of this success was accomplished without his usual training regimen, which was altered due to a deployment to Afghanistan that stretched into the spring.
“Looking back over the whole year, I really am proud of being able to maintain the level of consistency it took to stay right there at the top,” Cooper said. “My goals kind of progressed as the summer went.
“I had never won an Interservice Championship and that was top of the list. After doing as well as I did, my next goal was to continue competing at that level throughout Nationals. I had a burning desire to prove myself at the NRA Nationals, and I won the Service Rifle National Championship.”
In addition to his competitive feats, Cooper is also a lead instructor for the service rifle team. Whether it is hosting Soldiers at Fort Benning or traveling as part of a mobile training team to various posts around the country, Cooper passes along the skills and knowledge that enabled him to win the national championship to Soldiers preparing to deploy or hone their marksmanship proficiency.
“I really have to thank my whole team, both junior and senior Soldiers,” Cooper said. “I learned things from everyone, whether it was getting advice from the senior guys or sharing what knowledge I have learned through the years and assisting the junior Soldiers through their problems.”
The MMA 2011 Soldier of the Year nominees were: Pfc. Matthew Sweeney from the Action Shooting team; Sgt. Lawrence Cleveland from the Service Pistol team; Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Rose, International Pistol; Shotgun team member Staff Sgt. Josh Richmond; Sgt. 1st Class Eric Uptagrafft from the International Rifle team; and from the Custom Firearms Shop, Spc. Billy Hankins.