Reigning top AF pistol shooter "blasts" competition

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metal technology craftsman, fires his .45-caliber pistol during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson has been a member of the Air Force’s National Pistol Team for five years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metal technology craftsman, fires his .45-caliber pistol during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson has been a member of the Air Force’s National Pistol Team for five years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metal technology craftsman and member of the Air Force National Pistol Team, approaches his target during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta Ga. He placed first out of all Air Force shooters, second out of all the service members in his category and 13th out of 627 of all the national competitors during the National Rifle Association National Pistol Championship held July 6-10. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metal technology craftsman and member of the Air Force National Pistol Team, approaches his target during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta Ga. He placed first out of all Air Force shooters, second out of all the service members in his category and 13th out of 627 of all the national competitors during the National Rifle Association National Pistol Championship held July 6-10. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metal technology craftsman, loads his .45-caliber pistol during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson practices shooting drills two to three times a week to imitate how he’d compete in competitions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metal technology craftsman, loads his .45-caliber pistol during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson practices shooting drills two to three times a week to imitate how he’d compete in competitions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metal technology craftsman and member of the Air Force National Pistol Team, visualizes the target during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson practices visualizing his shots to mentally prepare for every competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metal technology craftsman and member of the Air Force National Pistol Team, visualizes the target during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson practices visualizing his shots to mentally prepare for every competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, (right), 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology craftsman, and Senior Airman Ian Pitts, 23d EMS munitions flightline delivery crew chief, pose for a photo after pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson, a member of the Air Force’s National Pistol Team, took Pitts underneath his wing as his protégé to help him perfect his pistol shooting techniques in preparation for team camp.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, (right), 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology craftsman, and Senior Airman Ian Pitts, 23d EMS munitions flightline delivery crew chief, pose for a photo after pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson, a member of the Air Force’s National Pistol Team, took Pitts underneath his wing as his protégé to help him perfect his pistol shooting techniques in preparation for team camp. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, (right), 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology craftsman, and Senior Airman Ian Pitts, 23d EMS munitions flightline delivery crew chief, fire their .45-caliber pistols during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson and Pitts practice two to three times a week and compete twice monthly to keep their pistol techniques sharp and assist Pitts in becoming a part of the Air Force National Pistol Team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, (right), 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology craftsman, and Senior Airman Ian Pitts, 23d EMS munitions flightline delivery crew chief, fire their .45-caliber pistols during pistol shooting practice Sept. 4, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Jackson and Pitts practice two to three times a week and compete twice monthly to keep their pistol techniques sharp and assist Pitts in becoming a part of the Air Force National Pistol Team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ceaira Tinsley/Released)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Ready on the firing line!

The ten-minute timer goes off and 199 of the 200 shooters advance to their positions.

But he doesn't.

The wind is playing tricks with his sights and he can't visualize his bullets hitting the target.

All that can be heard around him are the sounds of .22mm bullets leaving chambers and whizzing downrange.

With four minutes already shaved off the clock, he slowly approaches the line and resets his sights on the target.

Unlike his competitors, he's in no rush because he knows he only needs six minutes to get a near perfect score.

Taking a deep breath to settle the butterflies, he zeroes in on the target and pulls the trigger.

Bang!

The bullet lands dead center on the bull's-eye and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Jackson, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology craftsman, has gotten through the hardest shot of the day, during the 2015 National Rifle Association National Pistol Championship July 6-10, at Camp Perry, Ohio.

"For me it's weird because I walk up to the line and I've got these butterflies in my stomach, but after that first round breaks and I see it goes where it's supposed to, I calm down," said Jackson, a member of the Air Force's National Pistol Team. "When I'm shooting, I try not to worry about how well I'm going to do, how well I did, or what's going to happen in this match. I try to only worry about the one round that's in the chamber."

The two-time reigning top-pistol shooter shot his personal best that week and placed first out of all Air Force shooters, second out of all the service members in his category and 13th out of 627 of all the national competitors.

Jackson has been on the Air Force National Pistol Team for five years and two years running he's been the No. 1 shooter and his talents haven't gone unnoticed. Their rival team, the Army has even tried to recruit Jackson, but he refused because he says he bleeds blue.

"I could either be a great shooter on an excellent team like the Army or I could be one of the best shooters on the Air Force team and help bring us back to glory," said Jackson. "I stayed with the Air Force because we were the team to beat in the [19]60s and I would like to be a part of making that happen again.

According to Jackson, he can appreciate his personal precision shooting capabilities and high scores but he cannot deny that he'd rather the team be successful. 

"We like the individual aspect of shooting and if I do, well then I'm excited, but we'd rather the team does well," said Jackson. "It's all about the team, getting us back on the podium and beating the Army, of course, because they're the team to beat."

Jackson believes he may have found a key member to help make the Air Force team stronger and bring them one step closer to first place --his protégé Senior Airman Ian Pitts, 23d EMS munitions flightline delivery crew chief.

Pitts is honored for Jackson to have taken him underneath his wing, trained him and taught him countless techniques to become better. He describes the ability to train side-by-side with him as surreal.

"I feel immensely honored to be considered in that capacity to someone who (not only) shoots very well, but who also leads and teaches very well," said Pitts, an Air Force National Pistol Team prospect. "He really helps the team go to that next echelon of skill by encompassing and bringing everyone in."

While Pitts spends his days with Jackson preparing for team camp, he gets a first-hand view of how a person like Jackson is valuable to the team in more ways than one.

"Jackson's leading the Air Force in a lot of ways [and] one way is just by pure talent," said Pitts. "He inspires and definitely motivates others to do better, but he doesn't throw it at people to belittle them or anything. He tells them, 'hey this is what I'm doing, I know you can do it too -- so let's practice this and get better together.'"

Jackson envisions his Air Force comrades beside him on the stage receiving awards and he knows preparation is the key to making that happen.

"I had a lot of natural talent from the beginning, but I'm where I'm at now because of training," said Jackson. "The natural talent only got me so far, and I kind of just plateaued for a while."

Ensuring his shooting skills are always elevating and never rusty, Jackson shoots two to three times a week. In addition to practicing his trigger precision, Jackson proclaims that eating right is also essential to pistol-shooting success.

"Our diet plays a huge part into (competitive-pistol shooting) because 40 percent of your daily caloric intake is burned mentally," said Pitts, whom has been a prospect with the Air Force National Pistol Team for nine months. "This game is 90 percent mental. The physical is a representation of what happens mentally. If you're mind isn't in it because you ate a whole lot of grease or you had a whole lot of caffeine and your hand starts to shake when you pull the trigger--boom, you just missed your shot."

The mental and physical aspects are not the only things arming the Air Force team but they also using their rivals as ammunition to continue to strive for excellence.

"[We are gunning for the] Army of course because they are probably overall the best," said Pitts. "We used to be the best and then we kind of fell off due to a lot of different factors but we don't like being second place. If we can take that first place then we'd like to motivate the Army to take us off of first place and keep getting each other better."

The Air Force might not have dethroned the Army just yet, but as their skills increase the Army can see them on the horizon, says Jackson.

"After we got done shooting the (NCO in charge) of the Army said 'we went back into the office and I had to sit everybody down and tell them watch out the Air Force is coming'--and that's what we've been striving for," said Jackson.

Now that their sharp shooting rivals are taking notice, Jackson has plans to help the Air Force team to the top spot one .45mm bullet at a time.