A Symbol of Excellence: A Look at the Junior Distinguished Badge Program
June 7, 2020Civilian Marksmanship Program▸The First Shot▸A Symbol of Excellence: A Look at the Junior Distinguished Badge Program
By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
Exceptional talent is always on full display at Junior Air Rifle Competitions. Young athletes train for countless hours, days, weeks, months to earn the opportunity to demonstrate their grit on the firing line, hoping for tangible evidence of their hard work – scores representing their skill and efforts.
Short of winning a national competition, earning the Junior Distinguished Badge is the ultimate accomplishment for a youth shooter.
Distinguished Badges have been awarded to U.S. citizens exemplary in rifle marksmanship competition since 1884. Since then, the Distinguished Badge program has grown from strictly rifle competitions to include pistol and international shooting. In 2020, a Distinguished Badge for smallbore rifle was also added.
In 1996, a new federal law transferred responsibility of the Distinguished Badge program from the Department of Defense to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). With its new authority over awarding badges, the CMP, in cooperation with the National Three-Position Air Rifle Council, created a Junior Distinguished Badge in 2001 for Three-Position Air Rifle competition.
Now, nearly 20 years later, over 1,480 badges have been earned by dedicated junior athletes.
To receive a Junior Distinguished Badge, consistency in performance is key. A junior must place among the top competitors in state, regional and national junior Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) credit events. These events can be searched for on the CMP Competition Tracker page (https://ct.thecmp.org, “Competitions,” “Search for a Competition”).
Once a junior has earned 30 or more EIC points, he or she has earned the honor of being called “Distinguished.” The gold-filled badges are provided by the CMP, at no cost to the competitor, and ceremoniously awarded at events, whenever possible.
Many skilled athletes who have received the Junior Distinguished Badge over the years have carried their marksmanship careers on to other prestigious honors within the sport.
Brandon Green, now SFC Brandon Green US Army, was the recipient of Badge #1 as a junior competitor back in 2001. Green went on to become a decorated member of the Army Marksmanship Unit Service Rifle team, where he is still competing. In 2018, Green fired a perfect score in his overall win in the President’s Rifle Match held during the National Matches at Camp Perry – a feat that had never been accomplished.
James Hall received Badge #2 in 2001 and went on to compete with the Jacksonville State rifle team – winning three consecutive smallbore titles from 2005-2007. In recent years, Hall switched from air rifle to air pistol and successfully competes in both venues around the United States and abroad, even earning himself a spot on the 2020 (2021) Olympics. He is one of a number of Olympians who hold Junior Distinguished Badges.
Other notable marksmen have made their marks on the world in and outside of competition, including CMP staff members Catherine Green and Katie Harrington who received their Distinguished Air Rifle Badges as juniors. Green, who was a member of the Texas Christian University rifle team, earned her junior badge in 2010, while Harrington, a former rifle athlete for the University of Nebraska, earned her badge in 2004.
As a program coordinator, Harrington is a familiar face for anyone who has been to a CMP junior air rifle match. During competition, she’s diligent behind the computer, answering questions, ensuring all of the electronic target software is running smoothly, maintaining the accuracy of scores online, and keeping the match as efficient as possible. Once competition is over, she’s customarily given the honor of presenting and pinning Junior Distinguished Badges on its newest recipients.
“One of my favorite things is getting to award the badge to a competitor during the awards ceremony when they weren’t aware they had earned it that day,” she said. “They’re always so surprised and happy to be receiving it.”
She went on to speak of the badge itself – the significance of its history with its relation to the service rifle badge and its unwavering importance to current air rifle athletes.
“It gives everyone something to work towards, and it’s not an easy thing to earn,” Harrington said. “We work to keep the requirements attainable but also difficult, so the badge represents a lot of hard work.”
CMP also awards Junior Achievement Award Pins to recognize juniors who attain established score levels in any competition sanctioned by the National Council. Juniors who earn a minimum of 3 EIC credit points can order a Junior Bronze EIC Badge, while those who earn a minimum of 15 EIC credit points can order a Junior Silver EIC Badge.
To learn more about the Junior Distinguished Badge program, visit the CMP website at https://thecmp.org/youth/junior-distinguished-badge/.