A newcomer to this year's National Police Shooting Championship hails from deep in the heart of Texas. A seven-man team (including Melissa) known as the San Antonio Marksmanship Unit (SAMU). How new are they? So new that the team shirts arrived two days before they hit the road for Albuquerque.
From a force approximately 2,200 strong, nine members were choose to represent the department. Of those nine, seven made the trip to New Mexico.
"We only have two experienced competitive shooters on the squad," explained Patrolman Monico Meneses. "For most of the team, its trial by fire."
They arrived after a 13-hour drive with the best of intentions -- an RV to save on travel and hotel expenses, a review of Championship rules and procedures, and all the fixings for a Texas sized barbeque. To make the trip even more beneficial, they threw their hat into the Tactical Police Competition ring.
"You never know what you're going to learn from what competition," said patrolman Nathan Sandoval. "We're here to see how the team performs, how the members react to the pressure of competition, and learn how to better evaluate potential SAMU members."
For most teams, the tough part about making it to NPSC is raising funds to pay for the trip. But for the SAMU, there were a few more bumps in the road.
"We've been trying to start this team for about 18 months," claimed an unofficial spokesman. "It's quite a process. Approval of superiors, their superiors, committiees, associations, sponsors. Tell you what, if we don't shoot straight enough to win then at least we received a heck of a civics lesson."
To start things rolling, a local auto dealer loaned the team an RV and helped pay for the shirts. "We can't say enough about Ingram Park," said patrolman Chris Heronema. "Don't know how we would have got here without their help. For that matter, there is no way we would be here were it not for the support of Cheif McManus. He understands and appreciates the value in competitions like NPSC."
Heronema continued. "What we learn here, we can apply to our jobs on the street or to training fellow officers. And that's will save law enforcement lives. A faster way to aim, a better firing philosopy, or tricks to controlling your adrenaline. You can learn all of that here."
And learn they did. Walking away with a handful of trophies and a desire to return to Albuquerque in 2010.
Next up for the SAMU? Their own tournament at the Blackhawk Shooting Range in November. Check back in a few weeks for details.