Sharpshooting lieutenant sets sights on Olympics

  • Published
  • By Chris Dahmer
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
When 2nd Lt. Caitlin Harris signed up for her first pentathlon at age 12, little did she know it would pave the way to world-class competition and a chance to compete in the Olympics.

Lieutenant Harris, a contracting specialist with the 325th Contracting Squadron, is the only member of the three-person Air Force International Shooting Team to compete in the Olympic trials, which will be held Feb. 28 through March 5 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Top performers in the competition will go on to compete with the world's best shooters at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

"My dream is to make the Olympic team," said Lieutenant Harris, who said she's been competing in sports since she learned to run.  "As a kid, I always watched the Olympics and admired the level of fitness of the athletes -- especially the pentathletes." 

While horseback riding as a child in San Antonio, Lieutenant Harris was approached by a camp director who was promoting an upcoming modern pentathlon camp, a multi-sport athletic contest that includes: shooting, fencing, swimming, horseback riding, and running. Though a relative novice at several of the events, she accepted the invitation and spent several weeks during the next three summers training at the camp.

Her talents didn't go unnoticed, and by the end of the third summer the coach was pushing her to try out for the national team. She accepted, and immediately began training for the Pan-American games.  The training paid dividends quickly: she won at the age of 14.  Over the next five years she went on to win four national titles and competed on seven national and five world teams. 

While attending the Air Force Academy, Lieutenant Harris' interest shifted from pentathlons to competitive precision air pistol shooting.

"In college I didn't have time to train for all five pentathlon events so I started up the collegiate pistol team and just focused on shooting," she said.

During her senior year, the lieutenant's talents were once again recognized while competing in the 'Three Times' air shooting competition -- a three-day competition where she placed in the top 20 each day.  She was offered a spot on the Air Force International Shooting Team.

With a little help from her friends, Lieutenant Harris trains every chance she gets. David Gilson, a protocol specialist at Tyndall and fellow shooting enthusiast, has loaned her various training equipment, and Security Forces allows her to shoot on the range when mission permits.

"What's scary is that she's unable to practice full time like the professionals, and she's still a great shooter. She's just a natural," Mr. Gilson said. 

With the possibility of the Olympics in her future, Lieutenant Harris' primary focus now is preparing for the upcoming Olympic trials. 

"It's a great opportunity to represent and spread the word about the Air Force Shooting Team, and a chance to realize my long-time dream of being an Olympic athlete!"