Additional info on Calhoun water contamination case; Counterclaim filed by City
By: BRANDI OWCZARZ | Gazette Owner-Publisher
Monday, February 26, 2024
On Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, the City of Calhoun addressed a lawsuit concerning alleged PFAS contamination of drinking water.
“The lawsuit alleges that the contamination is from carpet and textile manufacturers’ wastewater, which then infiltrated the City’s water supply,” said the statement. “The other defendants in the lawsuit include the manufacturers of PFAS—who sold those chemicals to the carpet and textile manufacturers—and the carpet manufacturers themselves.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in Gordon County Superior Court on January 22 of this year, was brought by Moss Land Company LLC and Revocable Living Trust of William Darryl Edwards, by and through William Darryl Edwards, Trustee. These plaintiffs are suing the City of Calhoun, along with local flooring and chemical manufacturers 3M Company, Daiken America, Inc., E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company, The Chemours Company, Inv Performance Surfaces LLC, Arrowstar LLC, Aladdin Manufacturing Corporation, Mohawk Carpet LLC, Mohawk Industries Inc., Shaw Industries Inc. Shaw Industries Group Inc., Milliken & Company, Mannington Carpets Inc., The Dixie Group Inc. and Marquis Industries Inc.
The Plaintiffs allege that they “been damaged and continue to be damaged due to the wrongful act and omissions by Defendants that have caused toxic per and-polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) to be discharged onto their properties.”
According to the lawsuit, the Plaintiffs are owners of property in Gordon County which have been contaminated by PFAS in sewage sludge dumped on their property by the City of Calhoun and “as a direct and proximate result of the Defendants’ wrongful acts and omissions, Plaintiffs have been damaged by the presence of toxic levels of PFAS on their property.”
Moss Land Company LLC owns approximately 2,700 acres of land on Pine Chapel Road bordering the Coosawattee River which “the City of Calhoun has land applied sludge contaminated PFAS.” The lawsuit goes on to say that Plaintiff Revocable Living Trust of William Darryl Edwards owns 102 acres of land in Gordon County which the City has applied sludge contaminated with PFAS.
According to the suit, Calhoun, “which is the second largest center for carpet production in the United States after Dalton, Georgia,” owns and operates a sewer system and a WPCP (Water Pollution Control Plant) which accepts industrial wastewater from industrial users, including Defendant Carpet Manufacturers, which has contained PFAS.
“The sludge from the Calhoun WPCP has for many years been disposed of by land application on the properties of the Plaintiffs, with nearly 28,000 tons applied to the Moss property. Plaintiffs had no knowledge that the sludge applied to their property contained PFAS until Moss Land Company, LLC received a notice letter threatening a suit for PFAS discharges from its property by the Southern Environmental Law Center in November 2023.”
The City maintains that since the issuance of recommended regulatory guidelines by the EPA concerning acceptable levels of PFAS contamination last year, Calhoun has been actively investigating options to reduce the levels of PFAS in the municipal drinking water supply.
“Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency issued new recommended levels of PFAS in drinking water,” the City said in their statement. “Months later the City was the recipient of an ‘intent to sue’ letter from the Southern Environmental Law Center threatening to file suit against the municipal water provider on behalf of the Coosa River Basin Initiative. In addition to issues of possible drinking water contamination already being addressed independent of any litigation, this suit would concern itself with contamination abatement and remediation concerning the same lands already involved in the suit filed in the Gordon County Superior Court. Additionally, steps have been taken to also address probable contamination of all water sources by the release of treated wastewater. The City retained legal counsel and engineering experts to assist in not only directly addressing the current PFAS contamination, but also a means to ultimately have the chemical manufacturers who marketed and profited off of the sale of these substances shoulder the burden for the costs necessary to now ensure safe drinking water is available in Gordon County.”
The lawsuit listed human diseases caused by exposure to PFAS as “cancer, immunotoxicity, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol.” It also says that an Ante Litem notice was served on the City of Calhoun, Georgia by Plaintiffs on December 5, 2023. Calhoun responded on January 11, 2024 but “did not settle the claim.”
The lawsuit is asking for a trial by jury and for damages in an amount to be determined by a jury sufficient to compensate the Plaintiffs for read property damages, out of pocket expenses, lost profits and sales, and future expenses. Other requests include awarding the Plaintiff punitive damages, award attorney fees and costs incurred in connection with the lawsuit and requiring the Defendants to remove the PFAS chemicals from the Plaintiffs’ properties.
In their answer to the lawsuit, filed in court on February 22 of this year, the City of Calhoun is seeking damages and relief from Daikin, Inv Performance Surface, Arrowstar, Aladdin Manufacturing, Mohawk Carpet, Mohawk Industries, Shaw Industries, Shaw Industries Group, Milliken & Company, Mannington Carpets, The Dixie Group, Marquis Industries, 3M Company, E.I. Dupont De Nemours and Company and The Chemours Company.
“The City of Calhoun, Georgia never manufactured or commercially applied PFAS for any reason,” the Crossclaim said. “The PFAS that are referenced in the Complaint were manufactured and delivered to Gordon County by Chemical Manufacturers that knew PFAS were harmful to the environment and public health. The PFAS Manufacturing Defendants knew their PFAS chemicals were Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (“PBT”), as that term is used by the EPA to describe the chemicals. This information was also known to the Carpet Manufacturers, but was not shared with Calhoun. The PFAS Manufacturing Defendants spread misinformation and actively worked to mislead the public about the environmental harm and negative human health associations caused by their chemicals. These efforts were undertaken individually and collectively through associations like the Fluoro Council.”
Calhoun’s Crossclaim goes on to say “Carpet Manufacturers in Gordon County have applied significant amounts of PFAS to treat their carpets for soil resistance. In many cases, the Carpet Manufacturing Defendants were misled by Chemical Manufacturers about the dangers of PFAS. Eventually, through the EPA and manufacturing associations like the Carpet & Rug Institute, the Carpet Manufacturers learned the truth about the dangers of PFAS. But the Carpet Manufacturers failed to inform Calhoun about PFAS in their wastewater and failed to fulfill their statutory and legal duties to avoid harming the environment, which has led to the presence of PFAS in area groundwater, rivers and the Publicly Owned Treatment Works (“POTW”) where PFAS had adhered to sludge from the wastewater treatment process. The sludge that is left over from the treatment process, in many cases, has been land applied as fertilizer on local properties. Calhoun has discontinued the practice.”
The Crossclaim maintains that Calhoun seeks to hold those they feel is responsible, the Carpet Manufacturing Defendants and Chemical Manufacturers, for their actions that have caused a nuisance and damages to Calhoun.
Calhoun is asking in their Crossclaim against the Carpet Manufacturers damages in an amount to be determined by a jury sufficient to compensate the City for real property damage, out-of-pocket expenses, lost profit and sales, remediation and all future construction and operational expenses, as well as issuance of an order requiring the Crossclaim Defendants to prevent PFAS chemicals from continuing to enter the Calhoun WPCP and other requests.
“The City has applied for federal and state funding made available to address PFAS contamination of public water supplies,” said the City in their statement on Wednesday. “Additionally, the utilities division staff are formulating a procedure to identify potentially contaminated ground sources of drinking water used privately in unincorporated areas of the county and make available municipal water safe from PFAS contamination without the connection for those affected residents outside the City. As always, protection of public health and the environment and the quality of your drinking water are our top priorities.”
The statement said that before this lawsuit had been filed, the City implemented immediate “stop gap” measures to rapidly reduce PFAS in the municipal system for public drinking water. Those measures to date include the installation of Granular Activated Carbon (“GAC”) within existing filter beds at the Brittany Drive Water Treatment Plant. The City is also in the process of installing and evaluating the performance of GAC in existing filter beds at the Mauldin Road Water Treatment plant.
“Just this week the equipment necessary for a pilot testing of a reverse osmosis system arrived and will be quickly put into use to examine long term solutions,” said the statement. “The City has continued to perform ongoing testing of the drinking water and has reported test results to the Georgia EPD. The City, going forward, will continue the evaluation and use of GAC as a temporary, emergency measure while a long-term and permanent treatment solution is investigated and developed by our engineers. The City expects to begin pilot studies of various permanent PFAS treatment technologies in the coming weeks to ensure that the City will be compliant with any EPA PFAS regulations.”
In addition, the City has stopped the “land application of biosolids that may contain PFAS sent to the City’s wastewater treatment plant by industrial sources, as well as by way of residential and commercial sewer users,” said the statement. “Biosolids are all of the semi-solid substances left at the end of the wastewater treatment process that must be disposed of and removed from treatment tanks.”
According to the latest City of Calhoun Water Quality Report for the year 2022, the City of Calhoun’s primary consumer usable water source is the Coosawattee River (surface water). The Oostanaula River (surface water) can be used as an emergency water supply. The Mauldin Road Treatment Plant provides the majority of the drinking water for Calhoun and Gordon County. In 2022 the Mauldin Road Treatment Plant produced an average of 6.15 MGD of drinking water, in accordance with strict Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) guidelines for the removal of contaminants. The monthly capacity for this plant is 16.00 MGD. The Brittany Drive Treatment Plant is located in the eastern portion of Gordon County. In 2022 the plant produced an average of 4.79 MGD (million gallons per day) of drinking water from excellent ground water and natural spring sources. The monthly capacity for this plant is 11.80 MGD
In addition to Gordon County, the City of Calhoun also sells water to Pickens County, Chatsworth, Ga. and Rome, Ga.
The City of Calhoun’s statement said that they will continue to provide updates regarding its ongoing efforts to address PFAS issues on the City’s website at https://www.cityofcalhoun- ga.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2024-PFA-Update.pdf. The EPA provides updated information regarding PFAS at https://www.epa.gov/pfas, and additional information can be found from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division provides updated PFAS information at https://epd.georgia.gov/pfoa-and-pfos- information.
Soccer's Shankly Elite Training sees explosive growth, impacting the lives of children regionally
By: BRANDI OWCZARZ | Gazette Owner-Publisher
Monday, February 5, 2024
Shankly Elite Training owner Tyler Hudson, pictured, has worked hard to build up his private training business.
His students and their parents appreciate Hudson's work in making the kids not only better soccer players, but better people.
A lot has happened at Shankly Elite Training since it officially opened just under two years ago. Making the most of the professional experience he gained in Europe, Tyler Hudson, a Dalton State grad who played the game of soccer growing up in England, started Shankly Elite Training, LLC, a sports company that offers a supportive training regimen for soccer players in the spring of 2022. When Hudson began his company, he couldn’t have predicted the explosive growth his company has seen both in Soccertown U.S.A. and the Northwest Georgia region, including the Chattanooga, Tennessee area.
“The ultimate goal is to grow the company,” said Hudson. “The first year it exploded and we haven’t stopped since.”
Since 2022, Hudson has had hundreds of students that have attend the sessions, camps and clinics Shankly Elite provides to students from little tykes to college-age.
“A big goal is to make sure kids have an opportunity to train on the outside of their club practices,” said Hudson.
Hudson has an immense love and knowledge of soccer and knew he wanted to somehow mix these things to start Shankly Elite.
“It was an idea I came up with after watching many different people around the world for many years,” said Hudson. “I had to wait until I graduated from college, then I was able to form my own company.”
The soccer trainer knew that the Dalton community and surrounding areas could use supplemental training, saying that Dalton and the surrounding areas are very highly soccer-oriented communities who were ready for the supplemental training. His training philosophy is more than just training for the game of soccer…he trains his students on the game of life as well.
“I try to make it more than just soccer,” said Hudson. “I put a strong emphasis on the kids. It’s not really about just building soccer players, but building people and building character. (The soccer training) doesn’t mean that the kids will go on to become superstars in the game because most of them will not likely get to the highest level of the game professionally, but I want to make sure they gain things that they never thought they could do (by training) with us; they may gain new friends, they may gain confidence in certain areas they didn’t have originally and then of course, it will set them off as a better person. I want to make them better players, but more importantly, better people…better team players, better people individually so they do gain more confidence in their own abilities.”
Hudson began playing soccer in Liverpool, England, in a very working-class area, when he was around four years old. He honed his skills at a grassroots Saturday-Sunday league, then was scouted and picked up by Liverpool and Everton academies.
Hudson attended high school at Alsop High School in Walton, Liverpool. Throughout the next few years, Hudson, who played the position of left back on defense, played in the regular weekend league, school soccer and played with the Liverpool Schoolboys. He was then scouted for Wigan Athletic, a former premier league team, signing with them between the ages of 13 and 16. He was eventually released from the team and while disappointment could have easily set in, the young man was determined to play and realized that setbacks are opportunities for setups to something bigger and better.
Hudson visited several different clubs and became a member of a club that was in the 4th division in England called Morecambe FC, spending about a year-and-a-half there. While he was there, he began looking at the American scholarship route to come to American and play in college. Hudson settled on a college in Northwest Georgia, Dalton State, who at that time, was just starting their soccer program.
“They took three of us from England and I’ve basically been here ever since,” said Hudson, now celebrating 10 years in the country.
Hudson got his first degree in Biology, ran into a visa issue and had to go home and fix it then came back to America for another degree.
“That put me on the right track to graduate in May 2022 with my second degree, then start the company,” said Hudson. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but it was worth it.”
The popular soccer trainer said he reflects back on a conversation he had with a teacher in England many years ago, which might have subconsciously inspired him to begin his training center.
“I had a high school teacher say to me at the time, ‘Have you ever looked into teaching? I think you’d be a fantastic teacher,’” said Hudson. “At the time I said, ‘No, I’m going to try to be a player.’ He told me he thought I’d make a great player, but also thought I’d make a great teacher. Two or three years later, I am at college in America, playing and sniffing around the pros over here with a couple of summer teams and the Chattanooga Red Wolves. My career, even though I still played local and semi-pro for a while, it almost probably came to an end but I think it was by choice because I became so involved with coaching. Looking back many years ago now, that teacher was probably right. He said ‘I think you’d be a really good teacher.’ When you’re coaching, you’re teaching. You’re leading by an example; you’re breaking things down to the students. That is kind of a full circle; here we are now running a program where we’re teaching every single day. I actually spoke to that teacher not too long ago and told him, ‘You were 110 percent right. This is where I am now.’ And he was happy with how it turned out.”’
What makes Shankly different is the concentration of private training for soccer players, outside of their club and high school team practices.
“People are edging toward the private training aspect of soccer,” said Hudson. “They’re finding it more necessary, and there are parents who want to put their children into it. I think since we’ve started in June 2022, we’ve had a total of 650 kids in the program. So, hopefully in the next year we will hit 1,000. When I was a youngster, there was no private training. I wish there had been because I don’t know where I’d be at in the game right now if I would have had the more detailed guidance at that age. I wish I would’ve had it then. But I, along with others in this private training industry, want to be that person for our students that we didn’t have growing up, getting the individualized training and guidance that we could’ve benefitted from.”
Private training has become popular in Soccertown U.S.A., where terms like ‘whirlwind’ and ‘explosive’ do not even begin to describe the growth of Shankly in less than two years, not just in terms of adding students, but in the number of coaches working at the company and in terms of what programs Shankly can offer to the area’s soccer players.
“We’ve grown substantially,” said Hudson. “Not just in the number of students, but we’ve been able to employee a lot more coaches as well. We have coaches on staff on a day-to-day basis instead of just bringing coaches in as needed.”
Hudson said he now has around 19 coaches total working in some capacity at Shankly, whether it’s daily coaching or coaches who come in to work clinics and camps.
“On a week-to-week, there are six to eight coaches with me regularly,” said Hudson. “We are now a full-time daily program. The last six months’ growth has enabled me to really get going with a full flow of classes going every single day; three, four, sometimes five classes at the same time, whether it is individual or group training classes. That’s one of thing things I’m most proud of, being able to provide jobs for people around here that are interested in soccer. The summer of 2022 gave us our start, but the summer of 2023 was absolutely huge in terms of the amount of kids we gained in the program and the amount of classes we were able to offer on a day-to-day. In 2023, we were able to do two summer camps.”
Another important aspect to growing the company for Hudson was it helped him to be able to remain in America.
“One of my goals, personally, as well, was to be able to sponsor my visa to be able to stay in America. That’s the big factor: if I didn’t have that visa, I wouldn’t be able to run the company. I’d either be back in school getting a higher level degree, like a masters or a doctorates, or I’d be back home in England. So that was a big turning point and big deciding factor in being able to grow the company. In May 2023, I was able to use the company to sponsor my visa,” said Hudson.
In addition to more students and more coaches, Hudson has been able to offer a variety of new programs to assist students at every level of soccer.
Last week, on Wednesday, January 31, Hudson announced a new class, Finishing Friday. The first session was held on Friday, February 2, and saw 32 students come out to work on finishing drills.
“I got the idea from a guy I met in Anaheim, California at a convention a couple of weeks ago,” said Hudson. “He told me he designated one day dedicated to finishing, on a Friday, before the weekend games. He said every single week, it grew. So I thought I’d give it a go.”
Finishing Friday consists of game preparation. It facilitates students of every age, which are split into groups where they work on an hour’s worth of finishing patterns, movement patterns and ball striking.
“Pretty much, it prepares the kids for the games over the weekends,” said Hudson. “It’ll most benefit strikers and forwards. We also try to include a goal keeping aspect to it. It’s a lot of repetition for finishing at the goal, and a lot of repetition for the goalies as well. It’s non-stop shooting. It’s a less impact session and is more technique-based. It is scenarios around the goal. It’s basically a warm-up, then 50 minutes of straight finishing.”
Hudson said the first Finishing Friday session was a complete sell-out.
“It shows that our parents, our kids…our customers are trusting every single program we’re offering right now, and investing in it. We’re very grateful for that,” said Hudson.
Another important aspect of soccer is strength, and last year, Hudson began offering a strength training session.
“The past year has enabled us to open up a Strength Training Program, which is running on a weekly basis at the Beast Mode facility in downtown Dalton,” said Hudson. “The guys there are phenomenal; they open up a slot every Saturday for us and it gives our athletes time in the gym working on strength training.”
Something Hudson is looking forward to bringing back this year is partner camps.
“In 2023, we were able to do two summer camps; in summer 2024, I plan to do the two camps I do with my coaches at Shankly Elite, but also do some partner camps as well,” said Hudson. “I did one last year with Heritage High School, and it was a hit. The partner camps involve me and the Shankly coaches going out and providing our services to the high school camps.”
Hudson said the partner camps are an important part of the growth on the community relations side of Shankly.
“The partner camps were a growth factor as far as what we do in the community,” said Hudson. “I’m very proud and happy with the coaches that have come on board. They are building great relationships with our students and almost getting their own clientele together, where they know they are coaching on a day-to-day schedule and they form relationships with these students and the parents. We’re very fortunate to have the support of the community. The parents have been great and very supportive.”
Another business aspect that has helped Shankly, and that Hudson highly suggests for any business, is joining the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, where Shankly Elite Training was named the Emerging Business of the Year in April 2023.
“Being a part of the Chamber of Commerce and winning the Emerging Business of the Year Award has been an honor,” said Hudson. “Winning the award was also a big thing for me in aiding the support for my visa. It showed that we were doing good things in the community. I don’t do what I do, and the coaches of Shankly do not do what they do, for the recognition. We do it in terms of what we need to be doing it for…to help the kids grow as soccer players, athletes and people. It’s part of our company motto now. Even though it’s primarily a soccer training company, it’s a company that concentrates on building better people. We want these kids to get to the highest level possible in soccer. For some kids, it will be high school; for others, it will be college. For a very, very few, it will be a chance to go to the pros, which is a bonus. But our goal is building better people, and making sure the kids leave our sessions happy and more confident in technical ability as well.”
It’s that motto that keeps Hudson and the coaches he works with inspired and focused on the job at hand.
“Even on the days we feel the most tired, the most exhausted, we are there to set an example,” said Hudson of his coaches. “The minute our energy level goes down is the minute the athletes’ energy level is going to go down in terms of what they’re going to give training. Our coaches are here to set an example and make an impact.”
A huge impact the coaches at Shankly make on the youth is through the encouragement and advice they offer during difficult times.
“One of our young boys, who tried to make a middle school team last year but just missed out, came and trained with us, here and there, to improve his skills,” said Hudson. “He was improving but then took a big break. He came back but was back to scratch since he took such a big break. I had a text from his mother last night because he was supposed to attend a session, and the mom told me he’s given up on himself and doesn’t want to play soccer anymore. So, I told the mom ‘bring him out to the session, not to train, but because I want to talk to him.’ I had a conversation with the young lad for about 10 minutes, and really emphasized what he could possibly do. I told him a bit about my situation and what happened with me growing up. He came into the conversation with his head down and shoulders slumped, but within 10 minutes, his shoulders were pinned back and his head was back up again, showing he felt a little bit more confident in himself again. That’s what we want to instill in all of our players, and it’s something the coaches can give back to these kids as well. That’s just an example of someone who may not get to even a middle school level, but can hopefully take the life lessons with him elsewhere.”
Partnerships like the one Shankly has with the local Chamber, along with other regional businesses and organizations, has helped the training facility grow and serve the community.
“Mohawk Industries has been a big factor in aiding students to get discounted sessions, camps and clinics,” said Hudson. “With the camps being the higher priced training that we offer, Mohawk’s donation has enabled parents who have multiple kids and want to put them all in a camp or clinic to be able to do so at a discount. We are able to offer the discount because of Mohawk’s generosity. Their support has helped kids train more regularly, and to be able to attend camps and clinics. That support has been huge.
“Another partnership we are looking at being involved with is the Soccertown USA organization and Monday Night Futbol organization,” Hudson continued. “They’re also phenomenal people over there that we’re looking forward to working with in the coming weeks and months while the high school soccer season is playing.”
More growth has come with the addition of regional sessions as Hudson is hosting clinics in Signal Mountain, Tenn., as well as Atlanta.
“I’ve opened up sessions in Atlanta and trained two of the Concorde Fire’s girls’ ECNL club teams,” said Hudson. “I’m also in Signal Mountain with training. But Dalton is home. This is where I am and it’s home. Liverpool, England is home at heart, but Dalton is now home for me. (The word of mouth from Dalton) means our service area is spreading out. I have full confidence in my coaching staff here that they can lead sessions here in Dalton and do fantastic jobs while doing so. Whether it’s one-on-one training or group training, I’m getting fantastic feedback from parents on the other members of the coaching staff. That was hard at first; a lot of people just seeing me as coach. I had to get past that phase and make sure people fell in love with the Shankly brand and not just a single coach. Now, students have fallen in love with the brand and the coaches and are willing to train with any of the coaches because they know they’ll get the same energy and same guidance from whatever coach they’re training with.”
In the future, Hudson is hoping for even more partnership opportunities after attending the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Anaheim, California recently.
“I always thought it was centered toward college, club and pro coaches; I think I was one of the ones of just a few of the few thousand people there that was a private trainer,” said Hudson. “A lot of people were from international clubs, such as a lot of clubs from England had coaches there; the Scotland National Team was there, the U.S. National Team and clubs across the United States. We were fortunate enough to meet Brad Friedel who was on the U.S. National Team and an ex-Premier League player, Landon Donovan was there; I got to meet Javier Zanetti who used to play for Inter Milan. I got to connect with a lot of people that I didn’t even think I’d meet in this life. I took a lot away from the experience. Shankly has formed partnerships with really big brands, and we have a really good deal with Puma. We went to the private event that Puma hosted during the Convention and we met even more people. It was a way to connect with people, and was also an eye opener to see how far we can actually take this by connecting with people both state-wide and from other states. It will hopefully offer us ways to provide more services and programs and to continue to grow.”
And with U.S. Soccer recently announcing that their new training center and headquarters will be built outside Atlanta in Fayetteville, Hudson sees the possibility of other partnerships on the horizon.
“It’s a huge addition; it’s going to be absolutely fantastic for the state of Georgia,” said Hudson of U.S. Soccer’s move. “That’s also going to open up new opportunities. I think it’ll give our region more exposure to the national stage. It’s going to really boost soccer in our state. One of my goals in the next six months to a year is to connect with the people I’ve met recently to see if I can get some more of these pro players in to camps and clinics. We’ve had a lot of pros over the last year from the Chattanooga area come to our camps and clinics.”
Coming up at Shankly Elite Training, Hudson and his coaches will host Winter Camp February 19-20, which includes a two-and-a-half hour session each day. There will be both morning and evening slots available depending on the age group. Food and refreshments are included. Both camp slots will be held at Heritage Soccer Complex. In addition, there will be a Spring Break Camp, and summer camps this summer. Camps and sessions are competitively priced and financial aid is available.
For more information or to sign up for camps, visit Shankly Elite Training on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100087267036256 or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/shanklyelitetraining_llc/. Shankly also has a TikTok account at https://www.tiktok.com/@shanklyelitetraining_llc .
You can also find more information on Shankly's website at shanklyelitetrainingllc.com.
Under new leadership, Gordon Central
re-establishes JROTC Rifle Team
By: BRANDI OWCZARZ | Gazette Owner-Publisher
Saturday, January 13, 2024
Jace Baker, Kylee Bays, Jessie Calderon, Jaden Cromer-Brock and Anthony Pham make up the Warriors JROTC Rifle team, with Lisa Young serving as equipment manager. All six are 10th graders at GCHS.
The U.S. Army’s JROTC program has long been regarded as a place for high school students to experience what the military refers to as the rigorous and relevant curriculum involving lessons in leadership, health and wellness, physical fitness, first-aid and communications, and Gordon Central High School has always taken pride in the Warrior Battalion JROTC program they offer students. The program started the 2023-2024 school year under new leadership with Col. Wallace E. Steinbrecher taking over as the Senior Army Instructor for GC’s JROTC, and he has already invested a great deal of time with the 60 students in the school’s JROTC program through mentoring, training and leading the cadets.
Steinbrecher arrived at Gordon Central highly qualified, and inspired to take the program to new heights.
“I was contacted by a fellow officer I served with, Jeff Dickerson, who was the Senior Army Instructor at JROTC in Cartersville. He suggested I take a look at the JROTC program and put me in contact with Gordon Central,” said Steinbrecher.
Col. Steinbrecher served 39 years in the U.S. Army National Guard. A native of Tate, Ga., Steinbrecher joined the Army as an enlisted soldier in 1982 and retired in 2021.
“I had a parallel career on the civilian side and National Guard side,” said Steinbrecher. “I served 39 years with the Army National Guard here in Georgia. I held positions of company commander, battalion commander, brigade commander, Task Force Deputy Commander all the way through the Joint Task Force level. I retired in September 2021. On the civilian side, I served 30 years with the U.S. Border Patrol and retired in January 2013 as the Deputy Director of the National Academy at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick.”
Over his years of service, Steinbrecher was recognized with a number of awards and decorations, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with one bronze OLC, the Meritorious Service Medal with one silver OLC, the Army Commendation Medal with two bronze OLC, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal with four bronze OLC and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star, among many others. With his service and recognition, Steinbrecher was the perfect choice to lead the cadets of Gordon Central.
“The JROTC program, as it currently exists, developed quite early in 1916 as part of the National Defense Act of 1916,” said Steinbrecher of the program’s history. “It established a Junior and Senior ROTC program; the Junior program at the high school level and Senior program at the college level. The original idea was to provide a pool of trained, ready-to-serve civilians that had some exposure to the military. This all took place in the buildup to World War I. Over time, the circumstances have changed and the world we live in has changed. Now, the focus of JROTC is to make our students better citizens. We do that through a combination of leadership challenges and skills that they learn, as well as physical challenges and skills to maintain physical conditioning, and moral leadership. It’s all the things that encompass being a good citizen.”
In the JROTC program at GCHS, the cadets participate in Raider Competitions, Cadet Challenge and the JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl.
“We participate in Raider Competitions, which is a series of physical challenges that can be any number of things from a timed run event to a tire-flip over a distance,” said Steinbrecher. “We do what’s called a CCR, or a Cross Country Rescue, where cadets take a weighted patient litter and they run an obstacle course with that and whichever team finishes first, wins. They do a rope bridge competition, which is a military engineering competition where they construct a one-rope bridge and cross an obstacle. We do repelling and water exercises such as canoe and raft races, and raft construction. These teach them individual skills and team building skills.
“We also do Cadet Challenge, which is similar to the President’s Physical Fitness Award,” continued Steinbrecher. “The cadets do a shuttle run, a timed one-mile run, pushups and sit ups. They do that over the four years they’re in the program, assuming they start as a freshman, to show progression. They receive awards for those who have made the most progression and those who made the highest scores.
“On the academic side, we have the JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl. That’s a two-phase competition that is leadership and academic-based,” said Steinbrecher. “ We participate in the academic part. The cadets compete as a team, receiving a series of questions to answer related to Mathematics, English and General Knowledge. This year, we’ve qualified for Phase Two; they made it through Phase One and did well enough that they’ll go to round two at the end of the month. Those that complete Phase Two will go in person to Washington D.C. for the finals there.”
In addition, Steinbrecher has worked hard to bring an Air Rifle Team back to the school.
“The JROTC Rifle program is an air rifle program, where pellet rifles are used,” said Steinbrecher. “The program (at Gordon Central) has not had a team for at least a couple of years, so the team is comprised of all first-year shooters. We have five team members, plus an equipment manager. We started our competition season this year at LaFayette High School in early November. We have been shooting continuously since then, most recently at a match in Cartersville.”
According to Steinbrecher, there are two divisions within the rifle program; one is the Sporter Division and the other is the Precision Division.
“Sporter air rifles are no-frills, basic rifles, which is what our team has,” said Steinbrecher. “Precision air rifles are those that have a number of points of adjustment and are true competition rifles. Air Rifle is an Olympic event, and Olympic shooters use Precision rifles.”
According to the Army’s JROTC information page, all JROTC Units that are eligible to compete in air rifle marksmanship are invited to participate in the JROTC Air Rifle Postal Competition. The JROTC Postal gives all Cadets who participate in air rifle marksmanship an opportunity to experience a National-level competition, fired at their unit’s home range. In addition to providing their unit with a National ranking, results from this competition will be used to select the JROTC unit teams and at-large individuals that will be invited to participate in the Regional JROTC Service Championships. Teams and individuals may then qualify to compete in the National JROTC Championship.
“There are scholarships available for students who come out on top of the Air Rifle competitions,” said Steinbrecher. “There is a national competition that takes place that our students can be invited to participate in. The Nationals are held in Camp Perry, Ohio every year, which is the home of the U.S. Army Civilian Marksmanship Program, the sponsoring agency for the JROTC Air Rifle Program."
The Gordon Central Air Rifle Team has worked hard honing their skills, and has shown a lot of improvement using very basic equipment.
“They are constrained because they are competing against teams that are firing the precision air rifles and we’re firing sporters, but the team started out turning in scores of 400 points back in November, and they are now breaking the 800-point mark,” said Steinbrecher. “So in a little over two months, they’ve doubled their scores as a team. They’re learning quickly, they’re very enthusiastic about the competition and it’s exciting to see them grow as an individual athlete and as a team.”
Jace Baker, Kylee Bays, Jessie Calderon, Jaden Cromer-Brock and Anthony Pham make up the team, with Lisa Young serving as equipment manager. All six are 10th graders and Steinbrecher expects for them to continue remarkable improvement the next couple of years.
“They’ll be here for another two years to continue improving, which is exciting,” said Steinbrecher.
There are hopes that in the coming years, it won’t just be GC cadets participating with the Air Rifle team.
“Air Rifle is a Georgia High School Association (GHSA) sanctioned sport,” said Steinbrecher. “It’s not just limited to JROTC cadets. This next year, there’s a possibility of opening it to the general student population as well.”
The Air Rifle team has been so busy rebuilding since the beginning of the school year, that the next steps for the group will be holding fundraisers to raise money for precision rifles.
“One of the focuses I will have next is obtaining sponsors to be able to purchase some of the precision rifles so we can become competitive in this area,” said Steinbrecher. “There are no other teams up here shooting sporters, so every time we go up against one of the others teams, we’re competing against precision rifles. That’s the equivalence of a race between a Yugo and a Ferrari. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re not going to be able to be very competitive shooting with a sporter.”