Following in her father’s footsteps, Emily Stith has made a career out of putting small holes in bull’s-eyes from a significant distance. And she’s doing it while serving her country as a soldier in the Army.
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
Unit: Army Marksmanship Unit
Stationed: Fort Benning, Georgia
Job Title: Shooter-Instructor
What made you want to become a shooter? Or what happened that led to you becoming a shooter?
My dad was on the Navy Match Grade Team, and one of his teammates, Bruce Girkin, knew about a junior team in Kitsap, Washington. It was every Saturday shooting small bore and I was in love. I got a cold every weekend but I still felt the need to go. Eventually, I was shooting every day at different ranges and shooting matches on the weekends.
What’s it like being recruited by the Army to shoot vs. a university?
I was recruited by both, but I’d have to say the main difference is that everything happens at the pace you need for the Army, as far as shipping out. The Army felt more like home as well, everything they talked about I had some kind of knowledge about because of the huge military influence already in my life.
What kind of training and practicing does it truly take to compete at your level and be an Olympian?
At least several hours of shooting a day, then some kind of cardio, mental training — whether it be visualization or any mental hurdles you need to overcome — and knowledge about nutrition. It’s a 24/7 job. Always do something productive for you and your career, something in regards to what I just mentioned. Of course, letting loose is a big thing — work hard, play hard, but being smart about how it will affect your career.
How would you encourage other women to do something like this as a competitor and maybe a soldier?
If you’re just getting started, know that this is such a huge sport. So many different systems you could shoot, and if you don’t like one, you might like another. If you’re already shooting, don’t stop till you’ve done what you dream of, all you’ve set out to do. Sometimes you won’t have the motivation to go out and shoot every day or work out, but that’s when you need the dedication. The dedication to your dreams and goals and once you’ve achieved the top of that is when you see the dedication pay off.
For a soldier, I’m 5-foot-nothing and had never been in a sport in high school — I was lifting my senior year but that’s not a whole lot. If I can go through basic and [Advanced Individual Training], there’s nothing stopping you from at least trying. See if you can get in, if you can, do something for the better of most and serve this beautiful country because that in itself is something so extraordinary and rewarding.
What is your favorite hobby outside of shooting?
I enjoy camping, hiking and traveling. I just enjoy being outside all over God’s creation.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is proving to myself I can do what I set my mind to. Putting in the hours every day, traveling to matches and showcasing what I’ve worked for, representing Team USA, and now the Army, and showing others [that] not only America is a force to be reckoned with, but so is the Army and so am I.
Do you have to do anything different to be successful because you are so young?
All of the senior [personnel] in the office already have specific things [that] they know do and don’t work for them. As for me, I’m still trying to sort out so many things so I have my own style of shooting — [my] approach to the [target] when I’m looking through the sights, workout habits, nutrition on and off the range, etc.
Also, I’m straight out of high school, so there were a lot of learning curves when I got here I had to work around — and still do. All first-time things. Buying a vehicle, insurance, getting my license, having my first job, time management, keeping military bearing in check, and the list goes on. Just trying to figure everything out, and thank God I’ve got the support system through family, friends and my team to help me navigate it all.
Source: Department of Defense