Colonel holds rare Rifleman’s Badge, President’s Hundred title

by Sgt. 1st Class Alexander A. Burnett
21st Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
Courtesy photo Col. Miguel Castellanos, commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, 7th Civil Support Command, prepares to fire at targets during a shooting competition.
Courtesy photo
Col. Miguel Castellanos, commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, 7th Civil Support Command, prepares to fire at targets during a shooting competition.

The rank of colonel on his Army Combat Uniform and the long rows of ribbons on his service uniform distinguish him, but there is something far rarer to be seen. He has earned two accolades in marksmanship that place him in a military tradition dating back over 100 years.

Col. Miguel Castellanos, commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, 7th Civil Support Command, has earned the coveted President’s Hundred tab and Distinguished Rifleman Badge during his military career.

The Distinguished Marksmanship Badge was instituted in 1884 by Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan and was broken down into two categories in 1903: the Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge and the Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge. To earn one of these badges, service members must earn points in a maximum of four shooting competitions each year. Since the creation of these accolades, 3,275 Soldiers have earned the Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge, 1,740 Soldiers have earned the Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge and only 392 Soldiers have earned both, said Jay Williams, a former shooting partner of Castellanos and retired Army lieutenant colonel.

“In a nutshell, to earn the Distinguished Rifleman Badge you have to come in the top 10 percent of marksmen in the country three to five times,” Williams said. “Earning this badge has been described by some as a marathon. It takes some people 10 years to become a distinguished rifleman.”

The President’s Hundred tab began with the National Rifle Association’s President’s Match in 1878 and was a marksmanship competition modeled after the British Queen’s Match. In 1957, the competition was renamed “The President’s Hundred,” and the 100 top-scoring military and civilian marksmen are recognized each year. It is considered an honor even more difficult to achieve than the Distinguished Rifleman Badge, Williams said.

“The President’s Hundred is much harder to earn since it is only shot once a year at the national championships in Camp Perry, Ohio,” Williams said. “All five branches of service and civilians, including previous tab winners, are competing, and each year there are only about 20 new tab earners. Only five to eight of those winners are in the Army. To say the President’s Hundred tab is rare is an understatement.”

Castellanos’ journey to the Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge and President’s Hundred
Castellanos began shooting in seventh grade through a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. His first shooting experiences were with a .22-caliber rifle from the prone, standing and kneeling positions.

“I had an instant capability (to shoot), but I also instantly liked what I was doing,” Castellanos said. “I always wanted to shoot. I wanted to be that guy that went hunting and things like that, but no one in my family did anything with firearms.”

While in JROTC, he received the opportunity to join a local Army Reserve shooting team. He enlisted as a reserve Soldier and continued his marksmanship training as a member of this team. During his college years, his position as a reservist afforded him numerous opportunities to develop his skills and compete.

“While I was in college I would come down on orders to go train with my team or compete with them all over the U.S.,” he said. “After I made the team in 1985, I started earning my points toward a Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge, and I competed for the President’s Hundred for the first time.”

Castellanos competed in multiple shooting competitions each year, leading up to the President’s Hundred Match. Each year, in addition to team competitions, he had to participate in and place high in various Army-level competitions to earn points for the Distnguished Rifleman’s Badge. Castellanos’ first two attempts at the coveted President’s Hundred tab were unsuccessful.

“The competitions during the year got me prepped for the President’s Hundred Match and earned me points toward my Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge, but I didn’t make it my first two tries,” he said. “In 1985 and 1986, I didn’t make it. Chalk it up to nerves or me making the wrong wind call, I just didn’t make the right shots.”

In 1987, three years after joining the U.S. Army Reserves, Castellanos received two pieces of good news. He had earned enough points to receive the Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge, and he earned the President’s Hundred title.

“The year he (Castellanos) earned his Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge there were more Medals of Honor presented than distinguished badges,” Williams said. “To earn the President’s Hundred tab in the same year makes the accomplishment even more rare.”

Castellanos said he was fortunate to earn both accolades that year, because his next goal was to become an active-duty Army officer, something that would consume a great deal of time. Today, he is a Ranger-qualified brigade commander who still enjoys shooting rifles. He said he believes the hard work and skills he learned in competitive shooting led to his success as an officer.

“Shooting taught me to always maintain a positive attitude, no matter what the situation,” he said. “I made some bad shots at times, I even had days of shooting that went poorly. I always know that I would fire again the next day, and I could always do better.”