SGT Sherri Jo Gallagher said she set high goals for 2010. To say she met them is an understatement.
The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Soldier who recently won the National High Power Rifle Championship, is on the brink of competing to be the Army Soldier of the Year and said she relishes every moment serving her country.
“I wanted to be in the military since I was very young I was drawn to the challenge and excitement of it,” SGT Gallagher said. “I wanted to learn how to be a leader and make a difference in life. Then I had the opportunity to join the USAMU and turn my favorite hobby into my daily life. Nothing could be more fun than that.”
SGT Gallagher became the first service member since 1987 to win the high-power competition at the National Championships held annually at Camp Perry, Ohio. She set a new national record in the match with a 2396-161x, and shot 21 more bull’s-eyes than anyone else in the field, which included past champions. She also became the second woman to win the championship — her mother, Ms. Nancy Tompkins, being the first.
“Mom won in 1998,” SGT Gallagher said. “We were both competing that year so I didn’t get to watch her that much but she wasn’t shooting high-power this year so she was able to watch me shoot. She brought me coffee every day. It was very nice.”
SGT Gallagher currently holds 21 national records in rifle. In 2009, she won the national high-power long-range rifle championship for the first time and credits her success on the firing line to some very simple advice she received at a young age.
“The biggest thing we learned growing up was to have fun and if you’re not having fun something is wrong,” she said. “There is no point getting worked up over what you do because all you can do is your best.”
SGT Gallagher took that advice to heart in training for the nationals this year because besides winning the coveted title at Camp Perry, she was named TRADOC Soldier of the Year just a few weeks prior. A process that started at the unit level in the spring her set to go head-to-head against the best the Army has to offer at the 2010 Best Warrior Competition with the title of Army Soldier of the Year on the line.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” said SGT Gallagher, who was promoted to sergeant since competing at TRADOC. “I have learned so much through doing it. The last competition at TRADOC was amazing. The very first day we started at 4 in the morning and they had us going until 9 o’clock at night. Then we were up the next morning at 5 in the morning to do a (physical training) test. You would show up and have no idea what’s going on. At any given point you didn’t know whether you’re doing a PT test, a board, or doing Soldier skills.”
One of the reasons Soldiers in her unit believe Gallagher is thriving is the approach she takes to every task she is given, said SFC Kyle Ward, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the service rifle team.
“Competing at the level she does, being as successful as she is in competition, all while simultaneously preparing for numerous Soldier of the Year competitions is not something that just anyone could do,” SFC Ward said. “That is just the kind of person she is she has a ‘can-do’ attitude about everything she does.”
SGT Gallagher keeps a level head about her recent accomplishments, and said there’s always room for improvement. She said she hasn’t lost focus on the mission at hand for the USAMU.
“The most important thing is training Soldiers, assisting with research and development, and helping the war fighter,” she said. “My goal for next year is to learn how to be a better instructor. I like to use everything I learn through competition to help train others. I get to use a skill I grew up using and help people with their marksmanship. It is fun to be part of that.”
Twenty-four of the Army’s finest warriors, representing 12 commands from across the Army, will report to Fort Lee, Va., Oct. 17-22 to compete in the 2010 Best Warrior Competition, the Army NCO and Soldier of the Year competitions. SGT Sherri Jo Gallagher, of the USAMU at Fort Benning, will represent TRADOC at the annual competition. The last Fort Benning Soldier to compete in the Armywide competition was SSG Daniel Horner, then a specialist, in 2008. SSG Horner is also a member of the USAMU.
During the competition, these elite Soldiers will test their Army aptitude, conquering urban warfare simulations, board interviews, physical fitness tests, written exams, warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today’s operating environment.
In addition, warriors will go before two selection boards comprised of six senior sergeants major from across the Army. These boards, chaired by SMA Kenneth Preston, evaluate competitor appearance, military bearing and knowledge of critical Army topics.
Winners will be announced during the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting Oct. 25 in Washington, D.C.
For more information on the competition, visit www.army.mil/bestwarrior/