by Col Mike Howard US Marines (Ret)
Founder & Owner of Salute Targets
When I first came up with the idea for Salute Targets, I was literally in between combat tours in Iraq. I had gone from being a battalion commander of Marines on the initial drive for Baghdad (Mar-Apr 2003), to being the senior theater USMC combat engineer at Camp Victory, Baghdad. Our whole focus was the upcoming Battle of Fallujah (Nov 2004). We had gone from the initial classic WWII type scenario of marching upon the enemy capitol, to the unconventional Vietnam War type scenario of a guerilla war.
We (Army, Marines & Coalition partners) were extremely busy adjusting to this new tempo of operations. In one area we were rebuilding schools and teaching freedom and Democracy 101; in another we were retraining the new Iraqi Army while rebuilding bridges and infrastructure; and in the third realm we were identifying, pinning down, and crushing bad guys in close combat! All the time avoiding and dealing with deadly Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). It was literally a battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. They had suffered through decades of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial nightmare, and we wanted to show them that America was their friend in building a new, free Iraq. The Iraqi children got it. They were our friends. But there were old Baathist die-hards and new jihadi Islamic extremists who wanted nothing of freedom. They wanted to kill us infidels.
One of my challenges was helping Gen Petraeus and his new USMC Sergeant Major to get the new Iraqi Army up and running. New western marksmanship standards were essential if they were to acquire and employ our weapons effectively. Paper targets were not cutting it with adverse winds and weather, and an Arab aversion to time-consuming scoring and working range butts. We found 55 gallon drums an interim solution. But the real long term answer was steel reactive targets. They were simple, fun, and would last! I drew upon lessons from Col Jeff Cooper at Gunsite (dead-fall Pepper Poppers) and National Rifle Association (NRA) silhouette slab targets. Reactive springs, swing plates, and the simple, engaging, robust solutions we were designing were the ticket! This process inspired me to found Salute Targets on Christmas Day 2003 while home on leave. The name was simply the return motion of the target on our spring base crisply ‘saluting’ the shooter. When I shared this new target idea with my Israeli friends who had faithfully supplied us with D-9 Armored Bulldozers for Iraq, they stated … “Oh, so your new targets were born in battle”. This exemplified typical Israel Defense Force tactical focus.
Yes, Salute Targets were literally “Born in Battle”.
And you can be a part of this unique combat heritage. So when you shoot, shoot Salute!