From Country Boy To Navy Marksman
by U.S. Navy Marc Knutson
Navy Recruiting Command
October 18, 2019
When someone thinks of the U.S. Navy, images of aircraft carriers, submarines and combatant ships might come to mind. The Navy’s tag-line is “Forged by the Sea.” The sea is where Sailors are made iron-strong.
Talking to a Navy recruiter is the very first step in making the transformation from civilian to Sailor. Recruiters provide insight into what the Navy can offer in education, benefits and much more, so what does the Navy offer someone whose basic interests are hunting, fishing, camping and firing weapons?
Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Dodge, of Eugene, Oregon, discovered the answer to that question by talking to a recruiter. He enlisted on May 13, 2014, as an Aviation Machinist’s Mate and was excited to work on aircraft; however, he kept his passion for the outdoors and shooting close to his heart. Dodge tried out for a membership on the U.S. Navy Marksmanship Team and qualified on his first try in June 2018.
June 30, 2019 - Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class Levi Dodge, assigned to Navy Recruiting Station Eugene, Oregon aims at a target while shooting at the 2019 Inter-service Rifle Championship. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Navy photos by Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class Levi Dodge)
“It really is awesome to get out into the public to show them that you don’t have to be a designated shooter to compete against the best, but I am still a Sailor at heart, and my job is a necessary one for the Navy to operate efficiently,” said Dodge.
Dodge loves talking to people about his opportunities, experiences and adventures with the Navy, which is why he became a recruiter on April 8, 2019.
In 2018, Dodge competed at the 57th Annual Fleet and All Navy Rifle and Pistol Championships. As a result of his firearm prowess, he was included on a list of the top Navy active and reserve competitors from both coasts that qualified him to represent the U.S. Navy at both 2018 inter-service and national competitions.
According to Dodge, these competitions are difficult to compete in because both the Army and Marines have units dedicated solely to their marksmanship skills. As a recruiter he has a full workload, bringing our nation’s best and brightest talent into the Navy. But he dedicates his time off to performing in shooting competitions against professional riflemen.
“It becomes a rivalry match among the services competing,” said Dodge. “It’s a great challenge and a real commitment for me because they do this as their full-time occupation.”
Despite his superior performance with small arms and being a competing member of the U.S. Navy Marksmanship Team, Dodge takes his role as a recruiter seriously.
“I am a talent acquisition scout, out of Navy Recruiting Station Eugene, and it is my job to find mentally, morally and physically qualified applicants to join the world’s greatest Navy,” said Dodge.
Serving in his hometown of Eugene as a talent scout is the fulfillment of a personal goal for Dodge.
“I chose to come to recruiting to help change people’s lives,” said Dodge. “I believe that joining the Navy is one of the best things someone could do for their personal goals and careers and the best way to serve your country.”
Dodge said that recruiting has its own set of trials as well.
“The most challenging part is not being able to help some of the applicants that are not qualified, especially when they are so enthusiastic about trying to join the Navy,” said Dodge. However, he added, “I feel like the Navy has helped me become a very detailed and tactical thinker. I weigh every decision that I do and really think things out before I act to make sure I made the right decision.”
Since recruiting is Dodge’s primary job, he finds it difficult to schedule-in practice sessions between competitions.
“I’m driven by passion for shooting, so I try to practice as much as I can - once or twice a week,” said Dodge. “Practice isn’t always live fire (exercises), but just getting into my shooting jacket and working on position work and knowledge.” With no rifle range in Eugene large enough to handle the distance he needs to shoot, he defers to the wide expanse of the forest.
Dodge competed at the 2019 Interservice Rifle Championships in Quantico, Virginia, and Dodge said that the competition was a great success for himself and the Navy rifle team.
“I placed fifth in a 600-yard long-range match and 14th in the average of two matches that comprise the long-range match,” said Dodge. “The long-range match takes a score from shooting at a distance of 600 yards and a distance of 1,000 yards, which was a great achievement considering I have yet to be able to purchase a long-range gun that is suitable for 1,000-yard matches. I was shooting with the standard M-16 variant rifle using 5.56x45 NATO ammo.”
Dodge said that despite these obstacles, he was still pleased with his performance.
“I also had one of the best scores that I have shot for a personal aggregate during a team match,” said Dodge. “Normal course of fire allows a total of 500 points for a perfect score, and I managed to shoot a 481, which is currently one of my best scores. Without having my own match rifle completed yet and borrowing gear from other members of the team, it feels like a true accomplishment considering the fact that at inter-service we compete against the best and most well-funded teams. For me to show up as a hobbyist, I feel like this is a stepping stone for my shooting career.”
With his success as a marksman, Dodge said that he intends to continue his shooting career.
“My professional goal is to maintain a part on the Navy Marksmanship Team and become a distinguished shooter,” said Dodge. “The other goal that I have is to make the Navy pay grade of first class petty officer and decide if I am going to continue to serve my country in the long term as an active-duty member.”
People choose to join the Navy for a variety of reasons because the Navy offers so many different opportunities tailored to each individual. Whether someone comes from a small town or the big city, the Navy has something to offer, including a spot on the Navy Marksmanship Team.
Every May, fleet and all-Navy shooting matches are held in both Quantico, Virginia, and Oceanside, California, and are open to any prior-service or active-duty personnel. Based upon the results, 20 Sailors are selected for the U.S. Navy Marksmanship Team annually. Some marksmen are added to the team on a case-by-case basis. Next year’s applicants can contact Cmdr. David Michalak at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
The Eugene recruiting station falls under the command of Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG), Portland. NTAG Portland was originally established as Navy Recruiting District Portland in August of 1972. NTAG Portland is the fourth largest recruiting district encompassing all of Oregon and large parts of California, Idaho, Nevada, and Washington. Each year, the command accesses approximately 1,000 young men and women into the United States Navy.
Across the recruiting enterprise, Navy Recruiting Command consists of a command headquarters, three Navy Recruiting Regions, 17 NRDs and nine NTAGs that serve more than 1,330 recruiting stations across the world. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.
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