By Johnny Jackson
United States Navy Ensign Jafar Ali recently rediscovered his passion for competitive range shooting.
The 29-year-old McDonough native competed last month as a member of the United States Navy Rifle Team, against individuals and teams from around the world, in the 2010 National Rifle Association and Civilian Marksmanship Program, National Rifle Matches.
The events were held at Camp Perry, near Port Clinton, Ohio.
The recent matches at Camp Perry included a series of firing positions at different distances, where scores counted toward various awards of marksmanship.
While he did not win any top places in the competitions at Camp Perry, the active-duty Naval officer said he plans to continue to compete as time permits. He is in training to become a submarine officer for the Navy, at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, S.C.
"I shot in the 2008 Atlantic Fleet matches in Virginia," Ali said. "I really enjoyed it, so I took a team from Auburn [Ala.] to the matches in 2009. I missed the Navy Fleet matches this year, but had the time to compete here, so I came up."
The experience, he added, took him back to the years of range shooting on his high school's Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) air rifle team.
"I learned to shoot in high school," said Ali, a 1998 graduate of Eagle's Landing High School. "I learned to shoot air rifle and had a great coach. He taught me the fundamentals, and my basic shooting positions I still use today."
Ali's air rifle coach, retired Lt. Col. Jay Cluelow, remembers him as a standout cadet in the school's then-young Navy JROTC Program.
Cluelow said his former pupil turned down academic scholarships to other institutions to pursue a career in the Navy --specifically in nuclear chemistry aboard billion-dollar submarines.
"He was an outstanding young man," Cluelow recalled. "He was a rising star, and I'm sure the Navy recognized that. Those mariners are a special breed."
Cluelow, once the Senior Naval Instructor at Eagle's Landing, is also a 22-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
"Jafar was my commanding officer [also known as the Navy JROTC CO], and my air rifle team captain," Cluelow said. "As soon as we made him CO, he blossomed. It was one of the best moves we ever made. He was a good shot, too."
Cluelow retired from teaching in the Henry County School System in 2008. But he said he continues to keep in touch with several of his former cadets. For some, he said, he has participated in their being commissioned as officers in the military.
The retired Marine commissioned Ali, in August 2009, following Ali's graduation from Auburn University, in Auburn, Ala.
At Auburn University, Ali said, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Systems Engineering.
"I wish there were more like him ... that care about the job they do," said Cluelow. "And we [instructors] worked pretty hard; we preach and preach and preach, go to college."