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Troops share shooting skills

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"One hundred men we'll test today, but only three win the Green Beret."

If we're to believe a song, most of us couldn't hack being Special Forces Soldiers, yet everyone who was invited to the 1st Special Forces Group Flat Range Complex got a chance to shoot like one last week. The "open range" of sorts was part of 1st SFG's Menton Week celebration, recognizing the deactivation of the 1st Special Service Force, a World War II-era, joint American-Canadian unit from which the modern unit derives its lineage.

For two days worth of shoots at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Soldiers of the 1st SFG took places on the range as instructors, safety lookouts, and maybe just subject-matter experts to answer questions about life as part of America's Special Forces. During the open range, guests got chances to fire the MP5 submachine gun, HK-320 grenade launcher, 9mm Beretta hand gun; Colt M-4A1 carbine and it's predecessor, the M-4; and the M-249 squad automatic weapon system.

Day 1 of the shoots was open to Family and friends of the unit, which included a son of a 1st SFG Soldier. A teenager, he said he looks forward to Menton Week for the chance to fire weapons that would be otherwise unheard of for civilians without a video game controller.

"I love the fact you get to come here and shoot these guns legally," he said, "especially the automatic weapons and the grenade launchers -- you can't shoot those anywhere else."

The young man added that being on the range helped him better appreciate what his father does in service to his country everyday.

"They have to go through rigorous training with these weapons and we don't," he said. "We just get to come out, shoot and have fun. This is their work."

He mentioned, because of its secretive nature, he doesn't know a lot about his dad's "work," and he's OK with that.

"I don't get into his line of work much," he said. "As long as he's safe, that's all I really care about."

Day 2 was for invited Special Forces veterans, those similar to them, as well as other distinguished guests. Rich Wall, a career Special Forces Soldier who retired in 1991, brought his teenaged grandson, Tanner Bush, to the range for his first Menton shoot.

"Being in the Army, or being Special Forces, isn't a job... it's a calling," he said. Wall deployed to Vietnam three times, as well as Anti-Castro missions in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s, among others.

"(Tanner) expressed an interest in the military and wants to go to West Point. I told him he needs good grades and he's doing that, so I thought I'd bring him with me."

The son of a Marine and a military police officer, Bush said taking part in Menton Week didn't add to his enthusiasm for a military career because he already feels it's a high-priority goal for him.

"I've wanted to do it since I was little," he said. "I'd love to go to the Military Academy, then to Ranger school, and then Special Forces."

He added that as enjoyable as Menton was for him personally, it also gave him some more insight into his grandfather, someone he already respected. "I've always had an appreciation for what he's done and for all the years of dedication he gave to his country," Bush said.

Wall said attending Menton Week is a "must-do" because his Special Forces roots remain a part of him.

"I loved every day that I was in," he said, "I'd still be in if they'd let me. Why did I come for Menton Week? Why do you go home?"

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