World Class Athletes Represent The Army In The Olympic Games
June 21, 2008
When most of us think of the Army, we think of men and women training to fight enemy forces in wars. Most of us have no clue about the US Army World Class Athlete Program. It is a program that allows outstanding soldier/athletes, the opportunity to train, compete succeed in national and international competitions. That includes the Olympic Games. They’re able to do this, while still maintaining their career in the US Military. Soldiers who are chosen for the program, are the best of the best. The training they receive is topnotch, from some of the best coaches and trainers in the country. The selection process for the program is tough and Soldiers must be able to remain at the top of their specific sport to be admitted into the program. I’ve always said that the men and women who serve in our country’s Armed Forces are the best and brightest of our citizens. The men and women who are part of the US Army World Class Athlete Program, should be considered and are the “Best of the Best.”
I had the opportunity on Thursday to interview two of these athletes over the phone. SSG Libby Callahan, a member of the US Army Reserves and Major Michael Anti, an Active Duty US Army Soldier currently stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia as part of the Army Marksmanship Unit. Both SSG Callahan and Major Anti, have qualified to represent the United States in the upcoming Olympic Games in Bejing China. Both are members of the US Shooting Team. Both athletes will be competing in their 4th Olympic Games.
Major Michael Anti is currently assigned to the US Army Marksmanship Team at Fort Benning, Georgia as well as the World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado. I was curious what prompted Major Anti to try out for a spot on the Olympic shooting team for the first time. He said that he’d been shooting since he was 10 years old and has been a member of the US shooting team from the age of 17. In 1982, Major Anti enlisted in the Army, graduated college in 1988 and received his commission. Major Anti feels that the Army has the best shooters in the world. Currently he said that there are Army athletes competing in almost every sport in the Olympics. He knew that by becoming part of the World Class Athlete Program, that he would receive all the support in the world that he would need , in order to become successful in his support.
Major Anti feels that competition in the Olympics parallels what he does as a Soldier. Both require dedication, focus, hard work and the motivation to do his best at all times. He feels that he has been successful in his shooting career because of the resources that are available to him as a member of the US Army World Class Athlete Program. The Army has the best facilities, best coaches and the best gun smiths in the country. He receives all the support in the world from the Army, as he competes. Major Anti shared that as a member of the US Army Marksmanship Unit, his job is a multifaceted one. Not only is he training for competition, but the unit’s main mission is to train and enhance the marksmanship skills of Soldiers and ensure that they’re able to perform that part of their mission as well as possible. Major Anti shared that training for the Olympics, begins just as soon as the last Olympic games are over with. He’s been hard at work training, since he won the Silver medal in the 2004 Olympic Games. Training focuses on the shooters skills as well as the mental aspects that go along with it. The training is very intense, with the team training every day, or at least Monday through Friday for 4-6 hours per day minimum.
I asked Major Anti what advice he would give to a young Soldier/athlete, who was hoping to be selected for a spot in the World Class Athlete Program. His advice to aspiring Soldier/Athletes is to remain dedicated. The training is very intense and the Army is very selective when picking up an athlete for the program. Once they’re chosen for the team, they need to remain focused and continue training. Major Anti’s parting words were that he’s very proud and honored, first as a Soldier and as an athlete to be representing not only our country but the US Army in the 2008 Olympic Games.
SSG Libby Callahan joined the US Army Reserves after spending 23 years as a Police Officer for the Washington D.C. Police Department. She retired from the Police Department as a Captain. She has been involved in competitive shooting for 28 years, first competing when she was still working as a Police Officer and later becoming involved in Olympic style shooting after she joined the Reserves. Libby joined the Army Reserves after retiring from the Police Department as a second career. She used to train police officers in shooting and as she trained them to shoot. When she joined the reserves she tried out and was selected for the Army Reserve All Shooting Team. In the last Olympic games, Libby was the oldest member of the Olympic team. She said that she really doesn’t think about her being the oldest member, until someone mentions it to her. She doesn’t feel that it’s that much of a factor. Libby likes to shoot and said that because she often trains by herself, she has to be self motivated. Her advice for other Soldier/Athletes who aspire to make the Army World Class Athlete Team is to remain self-motivated. It requires discipline, hard work and motivation and the competitive desire to succeed and improve. Libby feels that being able to compete in the Olympic Games goes hand in hand with her military career. Both emphasize a person’s value system …. The values of honor, duty and respect. Libby feels that you can’t be successful without discipline and hard work. She shared that she has seen many extremely talented athletes not succeed, because they relied solely on their talent and didn’t work hard to improve and enhance their skills to become the best.
Libby attributes her success to self discipline, her motivation and her desire to excel at whatever she tries to do. Libby really pushes herself and sometimes is told by her coaches that she needs to take a break and not push herself so hard. However, she feels that she wouldn’t be where she’s at today without her drive to push herself to surpass what she’s accomplished in the past. Some of the younger members of the shooting team have told Libby that they look to her as a mentor, that she inspires them and that she’s their Hero. Libby’s hard work and dedication to success should definitely be a positive example for the younger members, who wish to attain the success she has.
Libby prepares for training, outside her shooting, with mental training exercises. A large part of the competition is mental, staying focused on what she needs to do. She stays focused and on task in the midst of the many stellar athletes that she faces by using techniques to help her remain focused. For Libby, that is visualizing a calming ocean scene. If she becomes nervous or distracted, using that visualization helps to relax her and bring her back on track.
Libby said that a lot of people have made a big deal out of the fact that this is her 4th Olympic games. She said that she’s just proud to be a US Soldier, representing our Troops, who by virtue of being deployed to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, aren’t able to represent themselves in such a setting. She said that’s she’s very honored and proud to be able to represent our country and those men and women who are currently serving in these countries, in the 2008 Olympic Games.
Both of these Soldiers are stellar examples of the men and women who serve in our countrys’ Armed Forces. Our military will be very well represented in the 2008 Olympic Games. Each of these athletes are bringing with them, the advantage of the ethos of discipline and hard work that comes with being a US service member. I’m excited to watch the upcoming Olympic Games and cheer our Military members on in their quest for the Gold Medal.
To find out more about the US Army World Class Athlete Program, please visit their website. To read more about Major Anti and SSG Callahan, as well as the other members of the US Shooting Team, please visit . I’m excited to see our Military so well represented in the 2008 Olympics and hope to see many of them coming home with the Gold!