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Fairchild NCO takes aim at Air Force’s best

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Master Sgt. Dale Brunelle, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron section chief, empties the spent cartridges out of his competition shotgun while practicing at the sports range here. While on the practice range, Sergeant Brunelle makes every shot count in his quest to regain the title of best shooter in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr.)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Master Sgt. Dale Brunelle, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron section chief, empties the spent cartridges out of his competition shotgun while practicing at the sports range here. While on the practice range, Sergeant Brunelle makes every shot count in his quest to regain the title of best shooter in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr.)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Master Sgt. Dale Brunelle, 92nd Aircraft Maintenace Squadron section chief, takes aim to become the best shooter in the Air Force … again. Sergeant Brunelle was the number one shooter in the Air Force before being sent to Okinawa where he was unable to compete for four years. Since returning to the states and the shooting team, he has competed in one event where he ended up ranked 24th in the country. (U.S. Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr.)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Master Sgt. Dale Brunelle, 92nd Aircraft Maintenace Squadron section chief, takes aim to become the best shooter in the Air Force … again. Sergeant Brunelle was the number one shooter in the Air Force before being sent to Okinawa where he was unable to compete for four years. Since returning to the states and the shooting team, he has competed in one event where he ended up ranked 24th in the country. (U.S. Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr.)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Master Sgt. Dale Brunelle, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron section chief, strolls over to the skeet range at the outdoor sports range here to get in some practice shots. Sergeant Brunelle is a member of the United States Air Force shooting team and is getting back into the sport after spending four years in Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr.)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Master Sgt. Dale Brunelle, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron section chief, strolls over to the skeet range at the outdoor sports range here to get in some practice shots. Sergeant Brunelle is a member of the United States Air Force shooting team and is getting back into the sport after spending four years in Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr.)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Master Sgt. Dale Brunelle, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron section chief, is a member of the Air Force International Skeet team and is back into the swing of things after a four-year hiatus.

Sergeant Brunelle arrived at Fairchild in January after four years in Okinawa, Japan, where he was unable to participate in any shooting matches, or even fire his competition shotgun.

"It hurt my feelings a lot not to be able to shoot," said Sergeant Brunelle. "The closest thing I can imagine is being away from your wife for that long, that's how much I love the sport."

It's a little known fact that the Army team has some of the best shooters in the world, but then again they do things a little different than the Air Force.

"Army is shooting all day every day. The number of days they work in a year - that's how many days they train," said Sergeant Brunelle.

In his first competition back since leaving Japan, Sergeant Brunelle participated in the United States of America shooting International skeet national championship in Kerrville, Texas.

"I had a couple of training days to get used to shooting again and then the match started," he said. It surprised him, though, because the first round of the match, he went 25 for 25.

The sergeant's goal was to end up in the top 25 shooters in the nation. By the time the afternoon was over, Sergeant Brunelle had hit 282 out of 300 targets, ranking him 24th in the nation.

"It was a nice surprise; I took the bronze in the senior division," Sergeant Brunelle said. "After the match, I just felt that the drive was still there to become the best shooter in the Air Force."

Throughout a career that includes making the United States shooting team, top six shooters in the country, winning the Georgia State Championship in 1998, and taking second in the 2001 Tennessee State Championship behind the reigning world champion, Sergeant Brunelle still regards making the Air Force team one of the highlights of his career.

"My biggest highlight is the day I got on the Air Force shooting team," said Sergeant Brunelle. "One of the guys I met and got to shoot with in Atlanta in 1996 was Col. Bill Roy, who at the time was a former Olympian and reigning national champion."

Sergeant Brunelle started competitive shooting in 1991, right after Desert Storm. He started shooting American skeet because he didn't even know international skeet existed but once he found it he was hooked.

"My brother came home from Japan and said, 'You have to try this sport.' I went and checked it out and after shooting it for a little bit, I fell in love with it," he said. "My brother David and my friend Frank are basically the reason I got into competitive shooting ... They're the reason I'm on the Air Force team."

Members of the Air Force shooting team still have fulltime jobs; they go to matches on the side and practice as often as they can, which means they need support from their leadership. Sergeant Brunelle's leadership support is very strong, he said, which allows him to concentrate on representing the shooting team as the team's sole enlisted member.

"I'm flattered and honored to represent the entire enlisted force as a shooter," said Sergeant Brunelle. "It's definitely a cool feeling."