Richmond is a soldier, and Richmond is an Olympian. That is the order in his mind, and the order in which he wants others to consider him. This summer, he will represent the United States at the London Games, wielding his shotgun as a favorite for a gold medal in double trap shooting. But every day, Richmond represents the United States as a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. It is in that capacity that last fall he flew to Kuwait and was bussed to Kabul for three months of training Afghan soldiers in the ins and outs of weaponry.
His identity, then, is clear: Staff Sgt. Joshua Richmond, U.S. Army.
“I’m a soldier who’s also an Olympian,” Richmond said. “I’m a soldier 24 hours a day. Being a good soldier is what’s also helped me become an Olympian. So everything’s kind of around the root of being a soldier, just by the way I’ve trained, the lessons I’ve learned, what it’s taught me.”
‘A professional soldier’
In Richmond’s mind, there is no end to what he has learned since he enlisted in the Army after finishing high school in his tiny home town of Hillsgrove, Pa. That was eight years ago. Now 26, he has spent anywhere from 180 to 200 nights a year on the road, touring with the marksmanship unit, conducting exhibitions in which he and others shoot from behind their heads, from their hips, from all sorts of angles.
They serve, he said, as a connection between “America’s people and America’s Army.” The unit is also responsible for research and development and training. In that capacity, Richmond has been allowed to compete for USA Shooting, just as Glenn Eller, another member of the marksmanship unit and Richmond’s daily training partner, did en route to winning gold in Beijing four years ago.
This is not, in any way, to suggest that Richmond is not a soldier. Because of his international success over the past two years — including winning the world championship in 2010 — he secured his spot on the Olympic team last summer. He then went to both his superiors in the army and his USA Shooting coaches with a plan: Deploy to Afghanistan that fall, abandoning stateside training for three months.
“It absolutely scared me to death,” said Bret Erickson, USA Shooting’s national shotgun coach, a four-time Olympian and former member of the marksmanship unit himself. “Of course, it’s a very safe deployment, and it’s important. But here’s a kid that is No. 1 in the world. He already made the Olympic team. We’re really counting on him to go over there and win us a medal. And it’s like, ‘Oh, crap. What’s going on now?’ ”