What it takes to be an Olympic-level Athlete and still serve in the Army

It happens every time the Olympics come on. Americans gather to cheer on our athletes in every event because they represent our country. Every now and then — especially when it comes watching Olympics shooting — you hear the same, misguided phrase: “That’s it? I can do that!” Sure, 50 meters with a .22 seems easy enough considering the amount of range time your average infantryman spends shooting at the 300-meter target, but there’s a lot more to it.

Luckily for those cocky soldiers, there’s a program through the MWR that’ll give you a chance to prove you can do it, too: the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. In order to even be considered, a soldier must be in good standing, have completed Advanced Individual Training or the Basic Officer Leader Course, be applying for an Olympic sport, and must reach a high enough national ranking to justify their application. The WCAP is not a developmental program. You have to already be a world-class athlete to even be considered.

2016 U.S. Olympic team

Of the 554 American athletes who qualified for the 2016 Olympics, 16 were from the U.S. Army. (Image via Flickr)

Since the program was established in 1948, over 600 soldiers have represented our nation at the Olympics as athletes and coaches and have earned over 140 medals. Much of the training is done at Fort Carson, Colorado. Once there, soldiers can expect to train day-in and day-out for their given event. If you’re chosen, this doesn’t mean you neglect your soldierly duties. Though the training is rigorous, it’s still extracurricular.

For marksmen interested in shooting events, there’s also the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit out of Fort Benning. Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller has represented the United States of America in every Summer Olympics since 2000, earned the Gold Medal in 2008, and still holds the Olympic record for double trap. Even after his appearance at the 2012 London Olympics, Eller deployed to Afghanistan, where he taught marksmanship to both American troops and the Afghan National Army.

Dan Lowe Olympic Shooter

It’s not rank dependent. If you’re an Olympic-level shooter and a specialist, go for it. Spc. Dan Lowe did. (Image via Flickr)

To learn more about the qualifications for each individual event, check out the link here.