|In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Col. Lee Schnell (left) and Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton (right) participate in the 2014 Sporting Clays Classic at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, Texas, Oct. 16, 2014. The annual event hosts teams of military veterans competing in clay shooting and raises money for the Boy Scouts of America. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)
Story by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
AUSTIN, Texas - On Thursday, Oct. 16, the Boy Scouts of America, the Texas Army National Guard, and corporate sponsors all teamed up at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch to support disadvantaged scouts throughout central Texas. The Sporting Clays Classic, held annually in Austin, Texas, is a fundraising effort wherein businesses sponsor "hero teams" to participate in a skeet shooting competition, with proceeds benefiting the Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
"We look for ways to make it possible for every boy to be in scouts," said Doug Cooper, the Development Director for the Austin Area Boy Scouts, "and this is one of the ways we do it. We've been doing it for 22 years; it's the oldest Sporting Clays tournament in Austin, and I think it's the best."
This year's event featured more than 200 shooters competing in five-person teams sponsored by local businesses such as Pinpoint Strategies and Sabre Commercial. Teams were made up of National Guardsmen from Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) out of Round Rock, Texas, as well as other veterans and wounded warriors from throughout Texas.
"[The sponsors] are very passionate about giving back and giving back to people who are important in giving to our country," said Ryan Leahy, the co-chair of the Boy Scouts Clay Shoot. "One of those ways is to sponsor a heroes team, which could include the National Guard or other veterans. That's what they do and that's what this is about. It allows the sponsor to give to a great cause while helping some of our national heroes."
Sponsors have the option of supporting an entire team or an individual service member. The day's activities included clay shoots, flurry shoots, Gnat shooting, social dinner, and an auction at the end of the night.
"A company gets to do a good turn to both the Boy Scouts and the military," said Cooper. "And of course the Soldiers get to come out here and shoot and we're really happy to have them out here."
This is the second year for JTF-136 (MEB) to participate in the Sporting Clays Classic, having first competed last year after their deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Last year, the 136th MEB returned home from Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. John Crawson, the chief of staff for JTF-136 (MEB). "A couple of months after we returned back, I got a note from Col. (Ret.) Te Starr that there was a Boy Scout shooting clay event going on down at Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Ranch. Corporate Sponsorship had sponsored five hero teams. So we fielded five teams and brought them down and had a great time."
Crawson, who coordinated Guard participation again this year, has strong ties to the Boy Scouts of America and involving the National Guard in community events like this.
"I've been around scouting programs since I was a little boy and now I've got two sons in scouting. It's a great thing; it's a great way for us as Guardsmen to give back into our community. Proceeds that are raised in this event today go back into the capital area council specifically to sponsor some of our disadvantaged children that live inside our council."
The event raises $75 thousand to $100 thousand each year in service of more than 24,000 scouts across 15 counties. Proceeds target underprivileged Boy Scouts in hard-to-serve areas, allowing them to engage events they might otherwise miss.
"Next summer," said Cooper, "there's going to be boys climbing mountains in new Mexico or going to a Boy Scout camp down in lost pines near Bastrop. And they're going to be there because of this event."