Throwback Thursday: Competitive Shooting in Her DNA

posted on May 19, 2016

Thanks to her mother’s hobby and her own interest in the sport, Karyn Manges set the tone for a memorable shooting career at the collegiate and U.S. Army levels. At the age of 10, Karyn could shoot a rifle better than the local high school boys from her hometown of Livonia, Michigan.       

These days, Capt. Karyn Manges proudly displays her President’s Hundred Tab, which is one of four tabs authorized by the U.S. Army for permanent display on the uniform. Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Multi-National Division-Baghdad in southern Baghdad’s Rashid district, sometimes question its meaning, mistaking the tab for some form of Secret Service organization or an indicator of the Old Guard. Actually, the 4½-inch marksmanship identifier worn on the left shoulder is a lasting testament to her ability in competitive shooting.

“I grew up around shooting ranges, so I would always bug my mother to teach me,” comments Karyn.    

Karyn continued practicing the sport throughout high school and used her talent to land both a rifle team and educational scholarship from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. “When I was at Xavier, I was an All-American shooter for four years, and I was the NCAA Champion in 1998,” Karyn remembers.    

A year after graduating college, Karyn decided to join the U.S. Army Shooting Team at Fort Benning, Georgia, to pay her student loans.

“The Army Shooting Team recruiters were always trying to get me to enlist,” Karyn remembers, who at the time was among the top collegiate shooters in the country. She enlisted as a medic in October 2000 and immediately became a part of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, a unit that is dedicated to representing the Army at shooting events.       

The years with the Army Shooting Team brought many memorable competitions and experiences, Karyn explains. “I competed in international competitions for three years visiting places throughout Europe and Asia,” she says. “The goal of the unit was to shoot, compete and represent the Army.”

At the competitions, Karyn fired the M-16, which is considered part of the Service Rifle Category. Other rifles that fall into the category are the M-1 Garand and AR-15.

While Karyn was not competing in shooting matches, she developed Soldiers throughout the Army in both basic and advanced marksmanship skills. “When I was not shooting, I was training other Soldiers in the Army,” she says. “I went out to train drill sergeants, snipers, Special Forces, Rangers and squad-designated marksmen.”

Adds Karyn, “I was the only female, and I was a specialist, so everyone got a kick out of being trained by me.” Karyn says that she believes women typically do very well in the sport of shooting.

“For me, shooting the M-16 wasn’t very technical,” she continues. “It was like—get down, align the sights and pull the trigger.”

The method seemed to work for her during her last year of competitive Army shooting. “Over the course of the year, I shot the M-16 at 1,000 yards and won some national titles,” she explains. “When people ask me how far I can shoot, I tell them at least 1,000 yards.”           

Karyn also made a trip to Camp Perry, Ohio, during her last year on the team to participate in the President’s Hundred Match, which is a nationwide competition sponsored by the National Rifle Association, recognizing the top 100 marksmen in the country. Approximately 2,000 service members and civilians compete each year in both the Service Rifle and Service Pistol category to win a coveted President’s Hundred Tab. The competition consists of 40 shots throughout the day, including various shooting positions, so it ends up being a long day, she added. The day of the contest was windy and overcast, Karyn remembered.

It’s a situation where even good shooters struggle because of the conditions, she explained. Karyn said that she does not recall exactly which place she finished in the competition, but she earned a Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge along with her President’s Hundred Tab for her efforts. “I think the tab is neat because anyone can get one,” Karyn explains. “You just have to go to Camp Perry and try.”

In 2005, Manges finished her stint with the Army Shooting Team and received her commission into the Medical Corps to become a physician’s assistant and now serves with the 4th Support Battalion, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B.

“I miss the dirt; I miss the smell. I miss cleaning my firearm, and I miss all that stuff because I am a competitive person,” said Karyn, who is currently a Captain and works in the Forward Operating Base Falcon Troop Medical Clinic. “For me, I only wanted to compete for a few years ... I wouldn’t make it a career,” Karyn explained. “I didn’t want to look back later in life and wish I would’ve tried to do it.”


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