Fort Benning, Georgia — This year’s U.S. Army Small Arms Championships was more than just a unique training event for two Texas A&M Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets, it was a family affair.
Cadets Hayle Mayer and Jesse Mayer, who are sisters, participated in the week-long, comprehensive, live-fire marksmanship training event that brings together more than 250 Soldiers from across the U.S. Army to the Maneuver Center of Excellence. The annual event, which is commonly called the All Army, is hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and opens up with All Army competitors receiving a variety of classes from the USAMU champions and experienced trainers.
After that, the Soldier competitors, who were a mix of servicemembers from active duty, Reserve, National Guard and ROTC, put the lessons to the test on the ranges by competing in 11 different courses of fire during the week. The variety of matches allowed the Soldiers to compete in both rifle and pistol matches, with and without combat gear, as well a four-stage multigun match.
As a senior, All Army 2023 was Jesse’s second year to compete and the cadet said each year has been extremely helpful in developing her Soldier skills.
“I think both times that I have come here, I have really grown as a marksman…just learning the basics, what I am capable of, watching improvement each year, and just learning how complex marksmanship is. It’s been really incredible each time.”
For her sophomore sister, Hayle, it was her first All Army experience. With limited prior marksmanship experience and spending all week with an array of Soldiers with a range of marksmanship knowledge, Hayle said she was trying to absorb all that she could.
“I am just learning basically everything you can about shooting.”
Though Hayle and Jesse may at be different levels of marksmanship knowledge, the sisters say that military life in general is nothing new to them. In fact, they were born into that life since both their parents were Marines, both grandfathers were Soldiers and a grandmother was an Airman.
That meant that military life was just always there. It’s what we saw and respected, Jesse explained.
“Everyone was so disciplined and so patriotic. There was just such a higher purpose to the military that I always saw, and I wanted to be part of that.”
So when it came time for college, joining an Army ROTC program was nothing out of the ordinary because both our parents instilled a strong sense of independence and strength in us, Jesse said.
“Our parents really made sure that we always knew that we were capable of anything that we wanted to do. So there was nothing stopping us, as long as we put our minds to it and put in the hard work.”
And that’s exactly why Hayle and Jesse were at All Army. As part of their ROTC’s Ranger Challenge Team, the cadets competed in the USAMU training event to gather experience and knowledge that they could later share with other cadets. That way, the A&M Team will be stronger and more knowledgeable before we go to the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at West Point, Hayle explained.
“We all want each other to do the best that we can.”
Jesse reflected that same espirit de corps as well when asked about if her and her little sister were competitive with each other.
“We are very competitive with each other, but also very supportive I think — we balance each other out.”
Sharing knowledge with her teammates, and her little sister, is just a way to pave it forward and frankly, just how we were brought up, Jesse explained.
“Growing up, I watched it—the honor, the sacrifice, and what it meant to give back and serve other people, your Country and your family.”
With all that, Jesse is proud to say that she is contracted to commission in May of 2024 and looks forward to carrying on her family’s tradition of service.
“It means a lot to me to serve my Country, to push myself in any way that I can, and it is part of a family legacy—being in the military—and I just want to complete that and do that for my family.”
Though military service is a tradition in the family, Hayle says it’s not something she feels like she has to do as well. She just wants to do it too, and that’s the advice she’d give to any other young adult, or even a little sister.
“Hold yourself to your own standards, not the standards of other people. If you want to do something, then that’s just the fact and just do it.”
By LTC Michelle Lunato
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