Frank Gill Honors Late Friend by Earning Distinguished Rifleman Badge
August 4, 2023Civilian Marksmanship Program▸State Director▸Pennsylvania▸Frank Gill Honors Late Friend by Earning Distinguished Rifleman Badge
By Sheri Trusty, CMP Feature Writer
Frank Gill of Oil City, Pennsylvania, didn’t initially have much interest in earning the Distinguished Rifleman Badge that was presented to him on July 28 during the 2023 National Matches at Camp Perry. He earned his first four Excellence-in-Competition (EIC) points inadvertently after finishing in the top ten of the Small Arms Firing School in 2011, yet he still didn’t make the badge a goal.
Gill had a passion for shooting and for winning, but he wasn’t yet ready to do the hard work to earn the Distinguished Rifleman Badge, which is among the most prestigious awards authorized by the U.S. Government to recognize marksmanship excellence. CMP is the governing body for Distinguished Badges and CMP issues the Distinguished points and Badges to civilians. Military branches also award points towards the Distinguished Badge.
When a friend became interested in the badge, and Gill got caught up in the excitement. When his friend died, Gill carried on, hoping to honor his friend as he pushed himself to finish what the two had started.
“I’m an old pistol shooter, so I wasn’t really into it. But then my best friend, Dennis, bought a service rifle, and I had to get one, too, like best friends do,” Gill said. “I didn’t get into this to achieve the badge. I got into it because a friend wanted me to come shoot. It just started, and it kept drawing me in.”
During a 2016 competition, Gill earned an additional 10 points toward the needed 30 points, and he set his sights on the badge.
“My best friend got me into this, but he died five years ago. I felt an obligation to keep going. If he was here, I’d be doing this with him,” Gill said.
Gill slowly worked toward the badge, but this year, he decided it was time to push to the finish. He earned his last qualifying EIC points during the Highpower Match at Camp Perry in June one week after his 72nd birthday.
“I felt that, because of age and unique health conditions, this was the year to do it,” Gill said. “I’m kind of a logic-minded guy, so I made a plan. I planned how often each week I would do light exercise, walk, bike and go to the range. This was the year, so I really needed to lean into it.”
A strong element of his preparation was match competition.
“I shot a lot of matches. In May, June and July, I competed in 12 across-the-course matches and six short-range matches, and I probably shot 2,000 rounds in practice,” Gill said. “You have to practice, but you have to go to matches to really improve.”
In addition to practices and matches, electronic targets also helped Gill earn the Distinguished Rifleman Badge.
“Several years ago, I bought electronic targets from Silver Mountain Targets. They’re really great. They give instant feedback. I can call the shot in my head and see it on the screen,” Gill said. “I wouldn’t be here without the electronic targets.”
There was one more element of his experience that helped push him toward earning the badge: a community of marksmen.
“I had a small group of guys – Nate, Rich and Josh – who wanted me to achieve this more than I did. They carried around an extra gallon of water for the last two years to dump on my head when I earned my leg points – like when they dump Gatorade on players at a football game,” Gill said.
Gill’s community of support was much bigger than his small circle of friends.
“I meet so many great people at Camp Perry. Some of them I see at regional matches and some just here, but we instantly recognize each other,” Gill said. “I can honestly say all the people I’ve met here, I wouldn’t mind living next-door to them. We help each other out. It’s fun here, and it’s fun when others do well.”
The camaraderie at Camp Perry is part of its attraction for marksmen.
“It really is a community, a sampling of America here. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you’re part of a community,” Gill said.
Gill has a long history at Camp Perry. He and Dennis traveled to the National Matches from 1989 to 1994 before stepping away for a time to tend to family and career obligations.
“I think about Dennis a lot when I’m here. He liked the place like I did,” Gill said. “This used to be a POW camp, and we used to stay in the old, old, old huts. We’d bring stuff to repair the windows and doors. We had fun with it.”
The National Matches became a getaway from the stresses of life.
“When I was a kid, I would go to Boy Scout Camp for a week. I’d go in the woods with my buddies and do things we couldn’t do the other 51 weeks of the year,” Gill said. “That’s how my friend and I thought of Camp Perry.”
As he was awarded the Distinguished Rifleman Badge on July 29, Gill was filled with gratitude.
“I thank God for the privilege to be here,” Gill said. “I really thank God that we live in a country that remains free and allows us to participate in this sport, especially when I see young people shooting shoulder-to-shoulder with experienced people and doing well. That’s a joy.”
As grateful as Gill is to be honored with the badge, he is more thankful for the friendships he made while he worked toward it.
“It’s important how you keep your priorities. It’s important how you count your riches. This badge is cool, but the friendships are far richer,” he said.