By: By Gary Anderson, DCM Emeritus
Six USA Shooting rifle, pistol and shotgun athletes earned prestigious U. S. Distinguished International Shooter Badges in 2022 with international championship performances that gave them the 30 or more International Excellence-in-Competition (IEIC) credit points required to receive the Badge. 2022 honorees included three members of the U. S. Army Marksmanship Unit, two members of the Ohio State University Pistol Team and one athlete who is a gun club manager in Kansas. Two of the six are women. The two youngest are 21 years of age, the oldest is 37 and their average age is 28. Two are rifle athletes, two are shotgun competitors and two are pistol athletes. Three were members of the very successful 2021 USA Olympic Shooting Team.
America’s Marksmanship Distinguished Badge Program traces its history to the first gold Distinguished Marksman Badges issued by the U. S. Army in 1887. This program, which is now administered by the CMP, offers competitors opportunities to earn 11 different Distinguished Badges. Of those 11 different badges, the one that is the most difficult to earn is the U. S. Distinguished International Shooter Badge. This is because to earn this badge, a rifle, pistol, or shotgun athlete must first qualify for a USA Shooting National Team that represents the USA in International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) or World Shooting Para Sport (WSPS) Championships. ISSF Championships include the Olympic Games, World Shooting Championships, World Cups and Continental Championships. WSPS Championships for athletes with disabilities include the Paralympic Games and WSPS World Championships and World Cups.
Making a USA Shooting National Team is only the first step in earning this badge, however. To be awarded the badge, a National Team member must then earn 30 International Distinguished credit points with medal-winning or high place finishes in ISSF or WSPS Championships. Credit points vary from 30 points that are awarded for Olympic or Paralympic Games gold, silver, or bronze medals to five points that that are awarded for third place finishes in the Pan American Games. 10 and 5 points are awarded for medal finishes at Junior World Championships. Olympic events receive higher point totals than non-Olympic events. Earning an Olympic Quota Place for the USA earns 10 bonus points. Olympic Mixed Team events (one man and one woman) receive credit points while points for other team events are no longer awarded after the ISSF started adding multiple team events in 2020. Regulations for awarding the International Distinguished Badge are found in the current CMP Smallbore Rifle and Air Rifle/Air Pistol Rulebooks (http://thecmp.org/competitions/cmp-competitions-rulebooks/).
USA Shooting (https://www.usashooting.org/) is the U. S. National Governing Body for Olympic Shooting and is responsible for selecting and training USA Shooting National Teams that represent this country in ISSF or WSPS Championships. The International Distinguished Badge was instituted by the Department of Defense in 1963, pursuant to recommendations from the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice. Responsibility for administering this program was transferred to the CMP when Congress and the U. S. President established the Civilian Marksmanship Program as a federally-chartered, non-profit corporation in 1996. The CMP now administers the Program in accordance with authority granted to it by federal law (36 USC §40722 (3).
2022 U. S. Distinguished International Shooter Badge winners listed in the order of their badge numbers were:
Henry Leverett, Bainbridge GA, Age 21, Badge #539. Henry Leverett, his brother Jack, and sister Abbie constitute a family team of young pistol athletes who have achieved remarkable records of success in national and international competitions. They trained together on their home range in Georgia. Now they are all members of the Ohio State University Pistol Team where they train under Coach Emil Milev (Milev won a silver medal in 25m RFP in the 1996 Olympics). Henry’s path to International Distinguished began when he won a silver medal in the 25m Pistol Men Junior event in the 2018 World Championship in Changwon, Korea. In 2019, his 5th place finish in the 25m rapid-fire pistol event in the Beijing World Cup won an Olympic Quota Place and scored 10 points. A gold medal in this same event in the 2021 World Junior Championship scored 10 more points. His final International Distinguished points came from a Rapid-Fire Pistol bronze medal finish in the 2022 Rio de Janeiro World Cup. A highlight in his still very young marksmanship career was his qualifying to represent the USA in the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo where he finished 22nd in the 25m Rapid-Fire Pistol event.
Derrick Mein, Paola KS, Age 37, Badge #540. Derrick Mein has been involved in shotgun competitions most of his life, with records of success in sporting clays, skeet, and trap. Derrick Mein has been involved in shotgun competitions most of his life, with records of success in sporting clays, skeet, and trap. While he made his debut in international in 2011, Mein did not begin to emerge as international trap star until 2019 when he qualified for his first ISSF World Cups. In 2020, he made the U.S. Olympic Team that competed in Tokyo in 2021 where he finished 24th. His big breakthrough came in 2022. In the Lima World Cup in April, he had a bronze medal finish. In September, at the World Shotgun Championship in Osijek, Croatia, he won the Trap Men gold medal and a 2024 Olympic quota place for the USA. Those achievements gave him the 30 credit points needed to earn the badge. By the end of the year, a silver medal in the World Cup Final secured his position as a world leader in this event.
Sergeant Sagen Maddalena. U. S. Army, Fort Benning GA. Age 29, Badge #541. SGT Sagen Maddalena is a rifle athlete who competes for the U. S. Army Marksmanship Unit. She grew up in Groveland, California, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Maddalena learned about target shooting through a 4-H Shooting Sports program. She became a member of the California Grizzlies Junior Service Rifle Team, earned her Distinguished Rifleman Badge in 2011, and competed as a member of several award-winning Grizzlies Junior teams in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Grizzlies Coach Robert Taylor encouraged her to compete in smallbore and air rifle in college. She walked on at the University of Alaska and became an eight-time All-American. After graduation she enlisted in the Army in 2019 and became a member of the USAMU International Rifle Team. Her ISSF breakthrough came in 2021. A 5th place finish in the 50m Rifle 3-Position event in the Tokyo Olympics led to a spot in the ISSF President’s Cup Match after the Olympics where she won the gold medal. Her international successes continued in 2022. In the World Championship at Cairo, her 4th place finish in the 50m Rifle Position event won an Olympic Quota Place and completed her quest for the International Distinguished Badge.
Sergeant Timothy Sherry. U. S. Army, Fort Benning GA. Age 28, Badge #542. SGT Tim Sherry is another rifle athlete who competes for the U. S. Army Marksmanship Unit. He grew up in Evergreen, Colorado and started competitive shooting as a member of the Cherry Creek Gun Club’s junior program. He competed for the University of Alaska Rifle Team where he won the 2014 NCAA Rifle Championship and was a 9-time All American. He joined the Army in 2017 and became a member of the Army’s International Rifle Team. He began accumulating International Distinguished credit points in 2019 when he won the Pan American Games gold medal in the 50m Rifle 3-Position event. His quest for the International Distinguished Badge reached a successful conclusion at the 2022 World Championship in Cairo when his bronze medal in the 300m Standard Rifle event gave him 30 total points.
Katelyn Abeln. Douglasville GA, Age 21, Badge #543. Katelyn Abeln of Douglasville, Georgia, is one of a small number of outstanding junior pistol athletes who are beginning to enjoy international successes for the USA. In the 2018 World Shooting Championship, she surprised many by qualifying for the final in the 25m Pistol Women Junior event where she won a silver medal. She is now a senior at Ohio State University where she competes on the OSU Pistol Team coached by Emil Milev. Katelyn’s most recent international success that earned her the International Distinguished Badge came in the 2022 Shooting Championship of the Americas in Lima, Peru where she won the 25m Pistol Women gold medal and the 2024 Olympic Quota Place for the USA in that event.
Specialist Dustan Taylor. U. S. Army, Fort Benning GA. Age 30, Badge #544. SPC Dustan Taylor is the third member of the U. S. Army Marksmanship Unit who earned an International Distinguished Badge in 2022. Taylor is a skeet athlete who had a dominating performance in the 2022 Championship of the Americas Skeet Men event. He won the individual gold medal and a 2024 Olympic Quota Place in that event. He won a second CAT gold medal when he teamed with Dania Vizzi to win the Skeet Mixed Team event.
The U. S. Government’s decision to establish the U. S. Distinguished International Shooter Badge was initiated by the CMP’s predecessor agency, the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice, during the height of the Cold War in the 1960s. The Soviet Union (USSR) was dominating international shooting competitions in the Olympics and World Championships at that time and leaders of the NBPRP and Army Marksmanship Unit were seeking ways to encourage the development of U. S. marksmen who could “beat the Russians” and win medals in international championships. A detailed history of this Distinguished Badge is posted on the CMP website at http://thecmp.org/wp-content/uploads/USDISBHistory.pdf. After the first International Distinguished Badges were presented in 1963 to U. S. shooters who won medals in the 1962 World Championship, the awarding of the Badge was made retroactive to recognize U. S. international medal winners going back to the end of the 19th century. The most recent badge awarded in 2022 bears serial number 544. This roster of badge winners covers over 120 years of history involving some truly remarkable American rifle, pistol, running target, and shotgun athletes.