Inspired by the many adventures he experienced as a member of the Air Force Pistol Marksmanship Team in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dr. Robert “Doc” Engelmeier of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania created his own exhibit . Documenting his excursions, including to Camp Perry, he goes into remarkable detail about how he was a competitor during that time period, the prizes he racked up and the friends he made along the way. The CMP will publish the article through a series in our online publication, the first shotwith fascinating commentary and vintage photographs for readers to enjoy.
We begin with our own account of Doc’s trip to Camp Perry in 2022, a return after a three-decade absence, where he created even more memories on the historic grounds.
Dr. Robert “Doc” Engelmeier of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania took a sentimental journey in 2022, returning to the Camp Perry national games in Ohio for the first time in nearly 30 years.
“We had the time and the determination this year,” Doc said of the trip, having been too busy to return since 1994. “It worked out really well for us.”
Doc completed a 24-year active duty career in the Air Force, retiring with the rank of colonel in December 1995. He also spent time in the Massachusetts Air National Guard. During his time in the Army, he spent nine years as a member of the Air Force Pistol Team, where he achieved several notable successes, including earning the #278 Distinguished Pistol Badge.
“That was a big deal,” Doc said. “I value my Distinguished Badge more than my Legion of Merit (a rare military award), because I had to perform.”
He keeps the badge in a display box at his home, along with his many honorary awards.
Such great career achievements include imprinting his legacy forever on two trophies from the annual Camp Perry National Matches in 1992. One was the General Carl Spaatz Trophy, awarded to the Air Force competitor with the highest score in the National Match of National Trophy Team Pistol, while the other was the General Curtis Lemay Trophy, presented to the highest scoring Air Force competitor in the National Individual Pistol Tournament. Though he didn’t know it until 25 years later, Doc was the first active duty serviceman to achieve the Lemay Trophy.
“I wanted to see my name engraved there,” he said, explaining that he had never seen the trophies before the 2022 trip.
Outside the trophy room, the spirits of his former teammates were more present than ever on the legendary grounds. Some have passed away, while others have been able to keep in touch with Doc over the years. One of those teammates is Gary Foster, who made the trip to Camp Perry with Doc this year. Gary now lives in Tennessee and met Doc in Pittsburgh, where the two men made the three-hour drive in the rain together, trading stories of their time at Camp Perry.
“Some might even be true,” Gary quipped.
Gary has his own marksmanship talent, earning the 300th Distinguished Badge and reaching the President’s Hundred, which is a prestigious achievement in National Matches. Since then, he has spent time training others and even competes alone, where people see him as a “big shot” on the shooting range.
“But I’ve been to Nationals, I’ve SEEN the big shot!” Gary said with a smile.
The men stayed in nearby Port Clinton, where everything has understandably changed in the past three decades. The men toured their old Camp Perry haunts and discovered additions they had never seen before, like the Gary Anderson CMP Competency Center and its attached 80-point indoor shooting range.
At the time of his visit, a three-position junior air rifle national competition was taking place. The men spent two hours at the facility, amazed by what they saw.
“I was very, very impressed by all of that! The building and everything,” Doc said. “That’s going to save the shooting, believe me. All those little kids doing it.”
“The sophistication of the weapons,” he continued. “We are tough .45 ball shooters, a shout-out-loud WWII throwback. I wouldn’t even know how to fire those weapons!”
Back outside, they marveled at the accommodations now available on the base and took a walk on the base’s Commercial Row, where they met up with some old friends.
Commercial Row also sparked a memory for Doc. It was there that he met Bill Jordan, a famous member of the US Border Patrol around the time of World War II and the Korean War, a meeting that Doc later discusses. in his memories. At 6’6” tall, Jordan was larger than life as a competitor on the field and within his run.
“I was in gunfights like cowboys at the border,” Doc said of Jordan. “He was quite a guy, but only at Camp Perry would you meet people like that.”
Doc initially got involved with the Air Force team on a whim, when his wife brought home a magazine she had discovered in a doctor’s office waiting room. He mentioned testing the equipment at nearby Randolph Air Force Base. Doc had just finished his residency on his way to becoming a maxillofacial prosthodontist and thought, why not?
“My wife kept saying, ‘You’ve been carrying these guns all these years, why don’t you start shooting again?’” he explained. “And I had a feeling that it was the right thing to do.”
“I’m sure I got the invitation because I was a colonel,” he joked. “They were trying to be nice to me.”
Although he hadn’t planned on joining a marksmanship team, his time there sparked experiences he’ll never forget.
“It’s amazing that a beat-up old magazine my wife brought home from her doctor’s appointment led me back to those wonderful nine years,” he added.
Those years brought with them tours of Camp Perry’s National Parties, treasured relationships and a narrative filled with exceptional stories that have lasted a lifetime.
“We had a great trip, we had a great time,” Doc said. “This was a gift.”
More about Dr. Engelmeier:
In his professional career, Doc was a maxillofacial prosthodontist, essentially a dental artist. Maxillofacial prosthodontists help cancer patients, accident victims, or anyone else who has lost body parts by creating a prosthesis to replace the missing piece.
Using a photo of the person or his imagination as a guide, Doc’s job was to sculpt the missing pieces, whether ears, nose or mouth, and attach them with a removable appliance, as if they were never missing.
“I always tell people I’m in the parts business,” he joked.
His adulthood began as a steel worker in Pittsburgh’s West End while working his way through college. He entered the Air Force in 1970, where he entered a three-year prosthodontic residency. He was then referred to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he learned more about maxillofacial prosthetics.
He took a break from active duty in the Air Force from 1972 to 1974 when he entered a private practice in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular tourist destination. He was the first year-round dentist in town. After two years there, he returned to active duty, stationed at nearby Otis Air Force Base, for further education. The Air Force, wanting him to receive the best training, even sent him to civilian institutions for additional guidance.
“I’m very thankful for that,” he said.
He has taught at the University of Texas and the University of Pittsburgh, passing his knowledge on to the next generation. He has lectured nationally and has written over 70 scientific articles in peer-reviewed peer-reviewed journals, with another 30 articles in non-refereed journals. He is also the co-author of two textbooks. Now, he teaches at a dental school in Erie, Pennsylvania, and finds himself with more time than he knows what to do with.
Naturally creative as a sculptor and painter, as well as being a published author, it made him think that perhaps, with his extra time, he could combine his creativity with his writing skills to create a descriptive look at his life’s adventures.
Stay tuned to read more about Doc’s story via his editorial Air Force Shooting Team, A hard ball odysseyas we post future articles on the CMP website, The First Shot.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearms safety and marksmanship training and the promotion of marksmanship competition for United States citizens. To learn more about the CMP and its programs, log on to www.TheCMP.org.