Camp Valor Outdoors is an exciting organization with a simple, uplifting goal: improving the lives of veterans and their families through different outdoor activities, including competitive shooting. A 501(c)(3) non-profit, CVO was founded in 2013 by Executive Director, Maj. John Schwent, a retired Marine who had a vision to reconnect wounded, disabled and ill veterans through a shared love of the outdoors. By 2015, the first CVO High Power Rifle team was on the firing line competing at the National Matches, and has fielded a team nearly every year since that time.
After competing with a partial lineup in 2021 due to covid, in 2022 the Camp Valor Outdoors squad returned to Camp Atterbury with a full complement of Service Rifle shooters, including a few veterans receiving their first NRA National Matches experience. The debut of electronic targets last summer at Camp Atterbury certainly helped make the NRA High Power Rifle Nationals more appealing, since it meant no pit duty for all shooters. This aspect resonated even more with the Camp Valor Outdoors crowd.
“Electronic targets being used for the first time ever at the NRA National Matches was a big win for all competitors, but especially for veterans and older shooters,” Schwent said. “Many of our warriors have problems pulling targets up and down. With e-targets, High Power shooters can stay in the game longer.”
Last summer at Camp Atterbury, Camp Valor Outdoors also had a team competing in the AR Tactical match, a new addition to the NRA High Power Rifle rulebook which allows shooting ARs with a bipod, among other differences. “AR Tactical is more like military-style shooting, since it doesn’t require jackets or other high-speed shooting gear,” Schwent said. “Our team had a good time with it.” One Camp Valor Outdoors team member, Vietnam veteran Stephen Licata, was competing for his second year at Camp Atterbury. With a score of 2340-89X, he finished second in the High Power Rifle Mid-Range AR Tactical aggregate, also garnering the High Expert award. While seated in the back of the house during the Mid-Range Championship awards ceremony, as we spoke I couldn’t help but notice his cheerful post-competition disposition.
“I love it here at the NRA National Matches, I really do,” Licata said. “I’m happy. You can count on seeing me back here next year.”
Camp Valor Outdoors National Team selections are determined based on State and Regional participation. Each year, the team generally fields about 12 competitors. To remain sharp and refine their shooting techniques, CVO encourages competitors to practice as much as they can. The instructors, who are often members of the team themselves, all hold Distinguished Marksmanship Badges and have competitive shooting backgrounds with military shooting teams.
As for connecting vets with local marksmanship instructors, the CVO team often has to surmount significant logistical hurdles. Competitive shooters are spread out across the country. “There’s a lot of distance. It can be tough to find places to train before matches,” Jeff Grieves said. He is a 26-year Army veteran from Virginia in his second year competing at Nationals with Camp Valor Outdoors. Before linking up with CVO, Grieves hadn’t shot much since his military service days. “This is my fourth competition. I’m getting a lot of experience and I’m slowly improving.” Despite the obstacles for training, Grieves plans to return to the Hoosier State for the 2023 NRA National Matches at Camp Atterbury, citing the camaraderie. “I’ve had a lot of fun. There are a lot of veterans here and it’s great to spend time with them,” he said. “Everybody here has the same mindset. I’ve met some really nice people.”
When I asked him about Camp Valor Outdoors, NRA Competitive Shooting Director Cole McCulloch described the outfit as a “fantastic organization,” a point to which I agree wholeheartedly. “They support these veterans that have served our country and paid the price,” he said. “We just love them here. They are great ambassadors for NRA competitive shooting and the shooting sports in general. What could be better?”
Through the awarding of grants, the NRA Foundation has assisted Camp Valor Outdoors with expenses for its competitive shooting team, such as entry fees, housing and travel costs. Chief Operating Officer of Camp Valor Outdoors, 29-year Army veteran Col. Denise Loring said, “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the support of the NRA.” Unlike many other groups of this type, no one at CVO draws a salary—the staff are volunteers and all donations are directed to support the mission.
Additionally, Camp Valor Outdoors conducts fundraisers to support its shooting team, which not only competes in High Power Rifle, but also F-Class, Precision Pistol, Action Pistol, 3-Gun, shotgun disciplines and more. All proceeds go towards supporting veteran events. There are also hunting trips, fishing excursions and other outdoor activities. Want to lend a hand to Camp Valor Outdoors in its mission? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution and help make a difference in the lives of ill, injured and wounded veterans.
For more information about Camp Valor Outdoors, go to campvaloroutdoors.org.