Sweet 16 with an M-16: “I love the thrill of shooting”

Talk about mixed messages.  As a society, we tell youth that violence is bad.  We make it a serious offense to bring weapons to school.  Yet we train youth to use military weapons and encourage, even compel them to join the JROTC.  How militarized are we?



Sure shot

Arlene Estabillo’s ability with an M-16 has wowed military and veteran shooters

By Dave Swann

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 31, 2010

A teen novice is amazing local marksmen with her prowess with an M-16 rifle, holding her own in competition with experienced military and law-enforcement snipers.

After only a year of training, Arlene Estabillo, 16, a Kapolei High School junior, has her sights set on a national title.

Retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Ken Roxabough, who works for Remington Arms Co., calls her “one of the first naturals I have ever seen in terms of learning the basics of marksmanship and applying them in a practical manner.”

Another retired Marine, Darrell Poland, a veteran with combat tours in Vietnam, Lebanon, Desert Storm and Somalia, said that she is the only person he has ever agreed to coach for free.

“My goal is for her to be a junior national champion or a female national champion,” says Poland. “Her ability is phenomenal.”

Estabillo is tearing through the competition in matches in Hawaii and on the mainland.

She tried shooting for the first time “just for fun” with her father at the Koko Head Range in late 2008.

Of her first 50 shots with a .22-caliber pistol, 45 hit the bull’s-eye at 25 yards.

Sensing that her daughter possessed a natural talent, Rogelio Estabillo, an Army reservist and guard at the Halawa Correctional Facility, began letting her shoot more often.

For two or three months, the girl went with her father to the range almost every weekend and practiced with a borrowed .22 caliber rifle.

“It just wasn’t enough fun because I didn’t know if I had fired it since the rifle had no kick,” says Arlene with a laugh.

So Rogelio bought her an M-16A3 in 5.56 millimeter, the civilian version of the U.S. military’s main battle rifle. It has a heavy barrel for a higher degree of accuracy.

After only two to three months of practice, Arlene last year entered her first match and placed 12th out of 19 shooters — all of them Army, Marine and law enforcement marksmen or snipers with five to 10 years of experience. Two of the shooters who placed behind Arlene dropped out of the match circuit out of embarrassment, Poland said.

Estabillo’s next competitive event was the Creedmore Match in Phoenix in October.

By that time, she was ranked fourth in Hawaii in the junior category, and was one of only three females in the match. One of the other two was Sherri Gallagher, the highest-ranking woman shooter in the Army.

Estabillo placed first in the junior category with a score of 718 out of 800. That put her ahead of 16 former and current Marines, including R. Lee Ermey, the veteran and actor who starred in the 1987 movie “Full Metal Jacket.”

“Ermey was so taken with her easygoing nature that he constantly checked her status during the rest of the match,” recalls Poland.

The teen now practices at least once a week, firing 200 to 300 rounds during each session.

Her father keeps costs down by rearming her shells by hand.

“I can reload the ammo she needs far cheaper than if we had to buy it in a store,” Rogelio says with a shrug. “I do what I can to help my daughter any way possible.”

Rogelio marvels at how she is able to concentrate on competitive shooting while maintaining a 3.5 grade-point average.

Arlene says that her mother and father provide the economic and emotional support that she needs to excel.

“They are always there for me, and it helps me so much,” she says proudly. “I love the thrill of shooting. The sport has helped me gain so much confidence in myself.”

The Estabillos have endured their share of hard times. Rogelio and Arlene immigrated to Hawaii from the Philippines 14 years ago, and had to leave her mother until she could qualify to come to the U.S.

Hard work, discipline and a tight family bond has kept them close, and now Arlene has high hopes for the future. Estabillo would like to go to the Air Force Academy after she graduates next year, and hopes one day to be a national champion in her division or even compete at the Olympics.

“I love the thrill of shooting,” she says.


Anyone interested in sponsoring Arlene Estabillo, contact Darrell Poland at budygun@hawaii.rr.com.

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