Army Marksmen Share Spot on Olympic Squad

The shattered remains of neon orange targets and oversized red shell casings are sprinkled across the International Shooting Park, the leftovers of a sporting battlefield, a place where soldiers and civilians alike come to play.

With mountains as the shooters' backdrop, competitors fired in robotic succession at the Fort Carson shooting range Monday, calling out "pull" one after another as they attempted to qualify for Tuesday's Shotgun National Championship finals.

Among the competitors were two shooters who will depart for London later this month as members of the U.S. Olympic shotgun double trap team. Glenn Eller and Joshua Richmond, who serve on the U.S. Army's Marksmanship Unit based in Fort Benning, Ga., walk the tight line between close friends and constant competitors.

"I'm hoping the best for him, I'm hoping he takes a silver," Eller, a sergeant, said with a wry chuckle.

Eller, 30, is the more veteran of the two and will be competing in his fourth Olympic Games, while his Army counterpart is awaiting his inaugural trip to the world's biggest international sporting stage. And though Eller -- who took gold in the double trap in Beijing and finished fourth Monday by smashing 140 of 150 targets -- has the more impressive resume, Richmond has moved out of the rearview mirror and turned into one of his friend's greatest threats since 2008.

Richmond tied for first with Billy Crawford and Jeff Holguin by striking 145 targets at Fort Carson. He also grabbed gold at the 2010 national championship, positioning him as Team USA's amiable rising star.

"They've thrown the term 'rookie' around quite a bit even though I've been on the national team for some 10, 12 years now," said Richmond, a 26-year-old staff sergeant who will share his Olympic experience on Twitter @JoshuaRichmond4. "I actually outrank (Glenn) in the Army, although I have accepted the term 'rookie' only for the Olympic Games."

The duo first met in 2003 and are usually within walking distance of one another at major competitions, traveling and training together when not working together in their Army unit. But when they're not firing off bullets at ceramic flying saucers, Eller and Richmond show their differences.

A Houston native who joined the marksmanship unit in 2006, Eller chomps on a lit Marlboro Light between speaking behind a pair of orange-tinted, aviator-style shooting glasses. He isn't shy about his post-Olympic hangover.

"The way my years went after the Olympics, I was just happy to get back," he said. "Finally starting to shoot well again, so it's not like I won the gold and was on top of the world for four years and was just the best guy out there."

His understudy, who is married with two children -- a newborn Beaux and 2-year-old Tristan -- doesn't befit the expected competitive shooter image nearly as well. They carry equally friendly demeanors, but Eller's proven-champion confidence separates him from his less-experienced Olympic teammate.

"I'm going to be a little bit nervous, definitely overwhelmed. I'm hearing all these great stories about how fun it is, the Olympic experience, and all that has to offer," said Richmond, whose parents are making the trip across the Atlantic. "But I'm going to make sure that I focus on my goal there, and that's to medal in the Olympic Games."

In this most mental and technical of sports, Eller and Richmond hope to see each other on the podium, just not with a gold medal draped around their friendly competitor.

And with their shared military background, which included a tour in Afghanistan for Richmond in fall 2011, the double trap teammates will be competing for the country emblazoned on their vests as well as their fellow men and women in uniform.

"You could say maybe I'm wearing two different hats, but it's really the same battle," Richmond said.

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