The Shot Of A Lifetime
by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Hull
December 3, 2018
He controlled his breathing and stilled his body. Slowly, he squeezed the trigger of his modified M4 rifle, letting his body absorb the recoil to minimize the disturbance to the lay of his weapon. With a wisp of smoke and an acrid scent, the bullet was gone and everything affecting its trajectory was beyond his control now.
The bullet sped through the air, striking the far-off target that stood between him and his President’s Hundred Tab at Camp Perry, Ohio.
U.S. Army Spc. Jonathon Wannemacher, a paratrooper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, competed amongst thousands in pursuit of the prestigious President's Hundred Tab. With that final shot on July 29, 2018, he earned a tab many have never even seen in person on an Army uniform.
July 29, 2018 -- (Left) U.S. Army Spc. Jonathon Wannemacher, a paratrooper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, aims at the 600-yard target during the President’s Hundred Match at Camp Perry, Ohio. Shooters must shoot at 200, 300 and 600- yard targets from standing and prone firing positions. (Right) U.S. Army Spc. Jonathon Wannemacher, a paratrooper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, with the just earned President’s Hundred Tab on his uniform. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from courtesy photos provided by U.S. Army Spc. Jonathon Wannemacher)
The President’s Hundred is a competition for all Service members, as well as law enforcement and civilians. The Civilian Marksmanship Program hosts the annual tournament in Camp Perry with approximately 1,200 rifle shooters and 600 pistol shooters.
To earn the badge, competitors must score in the top 100 participants in the President’s Rifle and Pistol matches. Winners receive the tab and a signed letter from the President of the United States.
Jonathon Wannemacher’s love of shooting began while growing up in the small town of Delphos, Ohio. He remembers first learning to shoot with his father at about six years old. Tutelage began with his father stating, "If you’re strong enough to pump the [pellet] gun, you're strong enough to shoot it." He was nine years old when he purchased his first rifle, a .22 caliber.
At 21 years old, Wannemacher joined the U.S. Army as an infantryman, citing a desire to follow in his family’s footsteps of military service.
"My grandfathers served in WWII and my great uncle served in WWII with the Office of Strategic Services,” said Wannemacher. “It skipped a generation and then it was my turn."
After two years in the Army, Wannemacher discovered the thrill of competitive shooting during the 2015 U.S. Forces Command Small Arms Competition. He went on to compete in that year’s All American Week Small Arms Competition, placing first in the individual pistol division.
His impressive performance earned Wannemacher a spot on the 82nd Airborne Division’s All American Marksmanship Team, according to retired Sgt.1st Class Raymond Miller.
"Wannemacher showed up and was out-performing most of his teammates almost immediately," stated that year’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
The Ohio-native added value to the team. In 2016, the 82nd Abn. Div. marksmanship team made it to the All-Army Small Arms Competition for the first time in nearly 15 years. There, Wannemacher placed sixth of 142 active duty Army competitors.
"Wannemacher remained humble and was always willing to share what he knew with others, even during a competition,” said Miller. “This was one of his greatest strengths; when he shared what he knew, his shot process got better."
The young Soldier attributes his success to Miller. He asserts that the senior NCO’s mentorship and coaching were the keys to his success.
“He not only taught us, but he also made sure the marksmanship team had the land and ammo to train,” said Wannemacher. "Sgt. Miller never let us forget our fundamentals and would drill them into our heads every day."
It was during the All-Army Marksmanship Competition that Wannemacher met Soldiers from the Army Marksmanship Unit. The AMU trains Soldiers in small arms marksmanship and competes in shooting tournaments around the world. Seeing their President’s Hundred tabs and learning about the competition, he made a resolve.
"I will earn that President's Hundred tab," said Wannemacher.
Wannemacher trained for three years with the AMU. He likened the experience to drinking from a firehouse.
“When you would get to the point that you think you know everything, there is always something new that surfaces,” he said.
The skill he said took the longest to master was reading wind direction and speed.
"Learning how to read wind is an art," he explained. "You get ten minutes for ten shots. You have one minute per shot to look through the optic and see the mirage, see how hard and what direction the flag is blowing, make your adjustments, and fire."
This was the year Wannemacher made his run for the tab.
Earning the President's Hundred tab is no easy task. Spc. Jonathon Wannemacher’s rifle competition was divided into three phases. With the first phase, he had ten minutes to fire ten shots at 200-yard targets while standing. In the second phase, he had 70 seconds to fire ten shots at 300-yard targets, beginning in the standing position, then moving into the prone position and changing magazines after the second bullet. In the third and final phase, he had ten minutes to shoot ten rounds at 600-yard targets from the prone position.
When Miller heard of his protégé earning the President's Hundred Tab, he was proud.
"Wannemacher had the talent and will to be successful," he said. "Whenever the 82nd needed someone to perform at the highest level with a rifle or pistol, he was the one we called."
For Wannemacher, there is a formula to earning the privilege of wearing the President’s Hundred Tab.
"It is doing the same thing every time you pick up a weapon, to the point of being repetitive," said Wannemacher. “How that butt stock feels against your shoulder and where your eye is behind whatever optic you are using.”
“There is nothing special or quick to being a good marksman."