When former SEAL Aaron Reed toes the mark on the professional 3-Gun Nation circuit nowadays, it's not completely unlike the start of the dozens of missions he participated in while on active duty.
There are a number of targets, each of which must be neutralized. He is outfitted with a variety of firearms and equipment. He has a plan mapped out in advance, which might or might not have to change at a moment’s notice. And while the possibility of dying at the hands of a terrorist is slim to none at the range, the fact that he’s shooting against the clock—and against the best 3-gun shooters in the world—tends to get his heart rate up.
“I left active duty in June 2012 to spend more time at home with my wife and five kids,” said Reed, who still serves in the Navy Reserves. “With my love for shooting permanently ingrained, I discovered the sport of 3-gun. I quickly found that my training as a SEAL very much aligned with the skills needed to be a good 3-gun shooter. Marksmanship, dynamic movement, fast target acquisition, and even tactics are huge factors in doing well at these matches.”
Reed’s journey from childhood, to Navy SEAL, to professional shooter is an interesting one. It is a journey highly influenced by his father, Chuck Reed. In fact, thanks to his father’s tutelage as he was growing up, Reed has dedicated his life to the service of others.
“I was taught at a very young age that every man should serve his country,” Reed said. “My dad made it very clear that freedom was what made America the best country in the world, and that we are only free because good men serve. My dad is a former Marine, Kentucky State Trooper and National Guardsman. He made sure I understood the value of service and the desire to defend what so many want to destroy.”
At the same time, Reed’s father introduced him to shooting—a pastime that would serve him well throughout his youth, his SEAL service and his new profession.
Photo by Aaron Reed
“My dad, a Distinguished High Master High Power rifle shooter, passed on to me the fundamentals of shooting,” Reed said. “I started out shooting on a Daisy BB gun team sponsored by the Frankfort Jaycees club. I had a small indoor range in our basement where I practiced the art of trigger control and front sight focus. My Dad painted a line on the concrete floor marking the 10-meter distance, and we wrote the acronym ‘BRASS.’ Many Marines will recall this means: Breathe, Relax, Aim, Sight, Squeeze.
“My Dad was also a fan of Mr. Jeff Cooper, who was the inspiration for the motto my Dad gave me to live by: ‘Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth.’ He told me to always live by this motto and always serve your country.”
Reed’s first opportunity for service came in second grade, when he joined a Cub Scout pack. He later earned the Arrow of Light, graduated on to Boy Scouts and eventually earned the Eagle Scout award.
“Scouting was a great opportunity to learn about living a patriotic lifestyle while planning and working community service projects,” he said. “The Boy Scouts were a very important part of my life, and I am thankful to have had that experience as a young man to help shape me into the patriotic American I am today.”
In high school, Reed was a member of the school’s very first air rifle team. The newly formed USMC JROTC unit was coached by “Top” Lyons, whom Reed refers to as, “the real deal.”
“He was the world-class USMC marksman that my dad had always told me about,” Reed ￼said. “He was able to fine-tune my shooting skills, and my team won the Kentucky state title in our first year of competition.
“With this experience, I earned a scholarship spot on the Morehead State University small-bore rifle team. If you have ever shot small-bore rifle, you know that the hardest part of the game is controlling your mind and dealing with the stress. As a spectator, it’s like watching paint dry. In the shooter’s head, it’s full combat.”
Reed would go on to earn a bachelors’ degree in sociology with a minor in criminology. That was during President Bill Clinton’s administration, marked by a push for more restrictive gun laws and passage of the “assault weapons” ban. The politics of the time prompted Reed to speak out for his right to keep and bear arms.
“As a shooter, defending the Second Amendment was always on my mind,” he said. “Every time I had to choose a topic of study for my papers and my thesis, I took that opportunity to write about how good guns are.“All I wanted to do was join the military. Becoming a Navy SEAL had possessed my mind."
“Most of my professors were extremely liberal, and they always loved to argue with me,” he added. “My greatest accomplishment was transforming one of my criminology professors into a new gun owner. She was an African-American lesbian who had always thought that guns were nothing but the devil’s right hand. In a paper, I explained how any American can choose to not be a victim by simply arming themselves. She had brushed those words off without a second thought until she and her girlfriend ran into some unfriendly attention that scared her into a new way of thinking. There was great pride and confidence in her voice when she told me I was right, and that she was now the proud owner of a new .357 magnum.”
College presented a major challenge for Reed, however, since what he really wanted to do was quit school and join the military.
“It was quite a feat for my parents to keep me in school long enough to graduate,” he said. “All I wanted to do was join the military. Becoming a Navy SEAL had possessed my mind."
“One of my best friends in college, Collin Thomas, had left school and enlisted in the Navy just after the fall semester of our sophomore year. We had trained together, shot on the rifle team together, and his mom sewed our first ghillie suits for us. Collin was a great American. He became a SEAL in 1997, and on his ninth deployment to Afghanistan was killed in a firefight in August 2010. Collin, whose father was a Marine, learned that serving his country was his duty and greatest honor.”
In 1999, Reed graduated college and finally lived his dream: joining the Navy to become a SEAL. But that road wasn’t always an easy one.
“It was like a lifelong dream,” he said. “To become a SEAL you need to make it your main goal in life. I honestly didn’t know if I would ever make it or not. I don’t think I really grasped it was real until I graduated.”
And life as a SEAL was everything Reed—still dedicated to serving his country, as his father taught him years earlier—had hoped it would be. He eventually served two tours in Iraq, then later a year in Afghanistan, where his unit saw more combat in one month—64 gunfights—than many do in an entire career.
“I will never call myself a hero, however I knew and served with some of the best men our country can offer,” he said. “They are true heroes.”
Reed said the code he lived by as a SEAL served him well both then and now, and would also serve the American public well in this time of political uncertainty.
“The Trident is the badge we earned after completing BUD/S and SQT denoting that we are now Navy SEALs,” he said. “It takes an incredible amount of effort to earn this title. We also lived by the words, ‘Earn your trident every day.’
“Just like SEALS strive to earn their title, I would like to remind all Americans to, ‘Earn your freedom everyday.’ Do not be so quick to give up big chunks of freedom for small bits of security. Our freedom is so precious, and so many of us will never even notice it until its all gone. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
After living his lifelong dream for 12 years, Reed finally chose to leave the SEALs to spend more time with his growing family. That’s when he discovered 3-gun. The rest, as they say, is history.
In fact, Reed has made the transition extremely well. After only one year of 3-gun matches, he qualified for the 3-Gun Nation pro circuit. And in his first year on the tour, he placed in the top 30, earning him a slot at the 3-Gun Nation Championship in Las Vegas next January.
“I’m proud to be on the tour, and proud to be shooting for Team Bushmaster,” Reed said. “Like in the SEALs, it’s all about being on the team and bringing something to the team. Everyone has their own strengths and things they bring to the table. That’s what makes a team work. We have a really strong team, and we have really strong support. I know I’m blessed to be able to do this for a living, and without my sponsors it wouldn’t be possible.
“And there’s no way it could happen without my wife, Sarah, being willing to take care of our children while I travel around the country for shooting matches. I’m extremely blessed to have her.”
While trying to outshoot the best pro shooters in the world takes a lot of time and effort, don’t think Reed is shirking his duties as a parent. He’s committed to passing the same values his father instilled in him down to his own children. “I am a simple man and see things in a simple way,” Reed concluded. “Good is good, and bad is bad. As my dad showed me the way to be a good American, I will pass it on to my kids.
“I will ensure that America has at least five strong-minded, God-fearing patriots to carry the torch for the next generation. God knows this country is going to need extraordinary leadership to survive the challenges to come.”
Photo by Michael Ives
How Busy is Busy?
Shooting on the 3-gun pro circuit while also serving in the navy Reserves and helping raise a family of five children should be enough to keep any man busy. Not Aaron Reed, though, who has his iron in many fires.
Reed works on a contract basis training Department of Defense civilian employees who are going to Afghanistan. He also runs two companies.
Kodiak Koating is Reed’s Cerakote application shop that applies coatings on firearms for both individuals and a number of gun manufacturers (KodiakKoating.com).
His newest startup venture, Ops United (OpsUnited.com), will provide active shooter defense training for corporations that want to have a plan should such a tragedy occur. Ops United’s triple Countermeasure process focuses on three aspects of corporate security—early warning signs, target hardening and active shooter defense. Ops United also has a tactical section, which offers practical pistol and carbine shooting courses to military, law enforcement and law-abiding citizens.
“I’m working hard trying to put them all together,” Reed said. “I’m not really a businessman. One of my biggest regrets is I didn’t take advantage of my college shooting scholarship more and get some more business training. But my goal was always just to get a degree and join the military.”