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This article was in the May 2012 issue of SOF, and covered the inaugural Shooter's Cup. The Second Green Beret Shooters Cup is being held on 13 October, 2012. For more information, go to www.sfa78cup.com.

The First Green Beret Shooters Cup
Elite law enforcement officers from across Southern California quickly responded last year to an invitation to compete in a physically demanding pistol shoot that benefitted wounded-in-action Green Berets – the first Green Beret Shooters Cup.

Orange County-based Special Forces Association Chapter 78 put out the call early in 2011. The response from law enforcement was quick from: five LAPD teams, two San Diego Police Department SWAT teams, two Green Beret teams, as well as teams from the FBI, U.S. Coast Guard, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Long Beach Police Department and a California State University Fullerton ROTC team.

On 8 October, at the Mike Raahuage Shooting Enterprises ranges in Corona, CA, Riverside County, 16 five-man teams competed in the first Special Forces Green Beret Shooters Cup on a bright fall day.

When the dust settled, LAPD’s Lawmen Blue team featuring officers Ed Asawesna, Bob Becerra, Russ Freeman, Jim Shray and Chris Yamate had captured the winner’s trophy that will stand in LAPD’s Elysian Park Academy facility until the second competition is held on 12–13 October, 2012.

Team Capt. Ed Asawesna vowed that his team will return and “we’ll take it home again.”

Besides the trophy and bragging rights, LAPD Lawmen Blue won five Springfield XD pistols and a Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), or FAL rifle. The lawmen promptly donated the Springfield pistols to help raise funds for this year’s shooting competition. Additionally, Medal of Honor recipient Col. Roger Donlon flew in from Kansas to hand out the winner’s trophy to LAPD Lawmen Blue team because, “It’s an honor to support an event designed to benefit the hundreds of Green Berets who have been wounded in action since 9/11 defending our country,” Donlon told Soldier of Fortune Magazine on 8 October. Donlon was the first Green Beret to receive the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

The competition wasn’t a New Jersey boardwalk event where people stood around simply shooting .22 caliber rifles at targets five feet away. The Shooters Cup was a rigorous, physically demanding competition that included a quarter-mile run, shooting on the move, precision rifle shots, a prisoner rescue from a Vietnam-era tiger cage, a four-man carry of a teammate 40 yards and a handgun disassembly/reassembly before firing at additional targets.

Spokesmen from LAPD, SDPD, FBI, LA Sheriff’s Department, Long Beach Police Department, LA District Attorney’s Office and the Coast Guard said they’ll return for the second competition in October.

Where It Began
The idea for the SFA Chap. 78 Shooters Cup began over breakfast in early 2011, when Chapter President Lonny Holmes introduced recently retired Green Beret Steve Cowan to the Board of Directors. Holmes also introduced everyone to wounded-in-action Green Beret Aaron Anderson, president and founder of the Green Beret Foundation, formed in 2009 to assist financially the more than 1000 Green Berets wounded in action since 9/11and their families.

Wounded in 2006, Anderson told Chap. 78 members about the many needs confronted by today’s wounded Green Berets and their families. Seriously injured by an IED explosion in Afghanistan, Anderson told compelling stories
from his personal knowledge, after spending months in Walter Reed Army Medical Center and enduring 24 surgeries to save his right leg. Through those ordeals he met fellow wounded Green Berets and began to plan how to help them.

Holmes suggested that Chap. 78 hold a fundraiser to benefit the Green Beret Foundation. Without missing a beat, Cowan, who served in Iraq as a Green Beret medic, originated the idea to raise money through a rigorous, highly competitive pistol shoot. The entire chapter voted unanimously to endorse the idea and the wheels were set in motion for the 8 October event.

In between attending college classes and his job, Cowan worked closely with Holmes and Chap. 78 Vice President Terry Cagnolatti recruiting sponsors and spreading word of the competition to law enforcement while establishing a
rapport with key staff members from the Mike Raahuage Shooting range in Corona.

These included Bill Murphy, the chief firearms instructor of Fire Arms Training Associates; and Ron Jung, the independent contractor at the range who specialized in target and building designs. (For the event, Jung built a tiger cage, the bamboo for which was donated by the Huntington Library.)

“Through this entire process, it was Steve Cowan who ram-rodded the event through to fruition,” said Holmes. “It’s a classic example of today’s younger Green Berets working with Green Berets from the Vietnam era in support of the Green Beret Foundation. What better cause could we get behind? Steve was a stud.”

In addition, Cowan, a veteran of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), also designed unique shooter T-shirts, competition coins, logos, competition score sheets, and some of the shooting events and press releases, said Holmes.

Rounds Down Range
Chap. 78 members and other volunteers worked on the range for several days, preparing it for the 8 October event. Finally, following a detailed briefing on range procedures, safety rules and a prayer, the competition began in earnest under clear, bright skies and high-desert heat.

Chapter and range officials, who volunteered throughout the event, worked closely with the shooters during the competition. There were five separate stations that ranged from static targets to heavy steel targets that had to be hit while competitors moved on the shooting lanes; if they stopped moving they were penalized.

The most challenging event was the culmination of the competition. Four team members were locked in a bamboo tiger cage while the last member of the team had to neutralize the “prison guard,” get his keys, free his teammates, then locate their weapons and some ammo.

Then, four of the members carried their teammate to the shooting line. They traveled a quarter of a mile in the desert heat before getting to the station, where they had to reassemble their weapons and fire accurately on their targets.

To view footage from the Shooters Cup, go to: http://sfa78cup.com/2011-shooters-cup-media/. It was produced by PictureMErollin’ Productions, directed by Jason Monroe and Executive Producer Mike Keele, a 1st Cav Vietnam veteran and chapter honorary member.

The reaction from all competitors was immediate and positive. George Agurski, of the LA Sheriff’s Department, said, “Today’s match was a quality event. It tested both the athleticism, as well as the shooting skills of the competitors. It was very, very challenging and it was for a great, great cause. We’ll be back next year.”

San Diego PD officer Mike Alberts said, “Today’s event was very impressive. Everything ran smoothly, it was
well organized and enjoyable, particularly since this was the first pistol shoot. We’ll be back.” Mark Heguerra of LAPD Metro added, “I’m a 15-year veteran of the department and today’s event was very challenging. We will return for the second annual event.”

No one weapon or caliber of handgun dominated the competition. One of the fire lane volunteers, Mike Keele, a retired deputy sheriff and Vietnam veteran, said he saw many Glock 9mm and .40 caliber semi-automatic handguns, “along with a few .45 caliber 1911s. There wasn’t an obvious favorite among the shooters.”

Chap. President Lonny Holmes, an SF medic who served in Vietnam and whose son is a Green Beret today, thanked all of the major sponsors at the competition: Springfield Arms, Kimber, Aim Sports, Rapid Reticle/Pride Fowler Industries, Enterprise Arms, SureFire, Special Forces Gear, and the U.S. Coast Guard Association, which provided lunch for the event and donated all proceeds to Chap. 78.

At the December Chap. 78 Christmas party, after Holmes, Cowan and other members presented a donation to Anderson from the Shooters Cup earnings, Anderson announced that the Green Beret Foundation had collected more than $1 million since its founding in 2009.

John S. Meyer, president of the Special Operations Association, commended the GBF and its Board of Directors for overseeing fundraising campaigns while only employing a treasurer to maintain foundation records and tax-related documents that non-profits have to file with the government.

Anderson said that Jen Paquette, the wife of Green Beret medic Roland Paquette, a double-amputee from 2006 in Afghanistan, will become the new GBF executive director, its second salaried position in the foundation. Anderson and Paquette thanked Chap. 78 for its initiative and presented the chapter with a GBF Certificate of Appreciation.

As to the second Shooters Cup, “The response has been so overwhelming that we’re going to have to hold it on two days this year,” said Holmes. Cowan and Chap. 78 members have signed up more than a dozen teams and more than a dozen sponsors for the Oct 12–13 event at the Mike Raahuage Shooting Enterprises ranges in Corona, CA.

“In the years ahead, we believe this can become one of the premier events in the country to assist our WIA Green Berets,” Holmes said in February. “We’re rocking and rolling. We’ll help the wounded Green Berets and their families while increasing the national awareness of their plight.”

The SFA Chapter 78 Website is located at: http://sfa78cup.com/aboutthe-special-forces-associationchapter-78/.

Article by John "Tilt" Meyer