CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - The smell of black powder lingered as gunfire cracked through the firing line. Elmo Anderson watched his son, Sgt. Erik Anderson, squeeze off controlled and accurate rounds from his M-16A4 service rifle. For Erik, Camp Pendleton was not much different from the wilderness of Lake Preston, South Dakota, where his father taught him how to hunt pheasant as a child.
Now, Erik is a motor transportation operator with Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, who competed against his father in the Western Division Matches aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 24 – March 7, 2014, where the top Marine Corps shooters on the West Coast gathered to test their marksmanship skills.
“We shoot together and are a team,” said Elmo. “For the 2014 Western Division Matches, we were on the same relay together during the whole first week. We’ve always been competitive, so we challenged each other.”
Erik joined the Marine Corps to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was a former medical technician with the Air Force and officer in the Army National Guard.
Throughout his career, Erik used the marksmanship skills he learned from his father to do his job as a machine gunner with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, and the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, deploying to Iraq four times before coming back to the Marine Corps to become a motor transportation operator.
“When I was a kid, all the neighborhood kids would want to go out and play,” said Erik, who longed to join them. “At the time I didn’t think it was too fun when my father would have me stay with him and do schoolwork or learn shooting or how to be a mechanic. But looking back, there are so many things I’m thankful for. He taught me everything I needed to be a man.”
For the Andersons, learning how to shoot was a family tradition. Both father and son learned how to shoot at an early age.
“My dad and grandfather taught me how to shoot when I was 10 years old,” said Elmo, now 60-years-old. “I got Erik involved in shooting .22 caliber rifles and the .410 gauge shotgun at a young age too.”
Elmo became a medical pharmaceutical director after his military service. His work gave him opportunities to travel with his family.
“We traveled to Washington, Colorado, and Nebraska, which are all good hunting states. We hunted deer, elk, pheasant and antelope.”
As Erik progressed in skill, Elmo trained him in the more complex aspects of marksmanship and handling of firearms such as reloading ammunition, sighting in different weapons and building their own weapons platforms.
“We do a lot of target shooting so we get a lot of experience with different rifles and different sights,” said Elmo. “I also make him reload his own ammo so he understands how the ballistics tables and coefficients work. We have 38 rifles and shotguns, with the Weatherby rifles being our favorites for their quality and price.”
“Erik and I just recently made an assault rifle platform,” added Elmo. “He bought the lower receiver and drilled it out, while I bought the upper receiver and customized the iron sights.”
To this day, Erik says he continues to hone his skills alongside his father, and frequently visits him at his home near Las Vegas.
Training together paid off for the father-son duo. Erik won a bronze medal in the rifle portion of the 2014 Western Division Matches. Before this, he won medals in the 2013 Western Division Matches and the 2012 All-Navy Marksmanship Competition for his proficiency with pistols.
Erik plans on participating in the All-Navy Marksmanship Competition later this year and other local marksmanship competitions in the future.
However, what’s important for Erik and Elmo isn’t merely winning medals, but being able to support each other and having some friendly competition.
“It’s just a matter of me being there,” said Elmo. “Of course that ended quickly when he beat me,” added Elmo, jokingly. “He’s way better than me now, but I’ll always be there for him.”