»YOU JUST NEVER KNOW how your life might impact someone. And, in that respect, you never really know how small our world is … like who knows who in your life or how various people’s paths within your circle of friends might cross. This realization came to me quite surprisingly after teaching a USCCA Training Counselor Course. But this is not so much about me or about my experiences as it is about those of two USCCA students. So, let me tell you a little bit about Will Parker and Julie Hill.
Will Parker, of Freddie Merc’s Gun Wercs, boasts more than 28 years of experience with firearms, 25 years in the military, 21 years as an instructor, six years as a competitive shooter and five years as an NRA instructor. And Will was a candidate in the first USCCA Training Counselor Course I ever led.
“I jumped at the chance to attend the training counselor course in 2015,” Will said. “In early 2013, I was impressed with the quality, information and flow of the material just reading about it. So I purchased the toolkit and became an affiliate instructor. When I saw the material, I was even more impressed. I attended the first USCCA Instructor Certification Course, and my perspective forever changed for the better. I couldn’t believe the knowledge I lacked, even after so many years of experience and other classes I had attended.”
I knew from the start that Will would be a great addition to our classroom. Beyond having an impressive list of qualifications, and in addition to his appreciation for the USCCA course, his enthusiasm, wit and friendliness were contagious. His peers most definitely respected him and enjoyed his teaching segments, and I was honored to be the one to lead him to his new certification.
No doubt, I knew that Will would make an effective and successful training counselor and would bring a stellar group of new candidates into the USCCA family of instructors. And one of those new certified instructors happened to be Julie Hill. Julie is a very busy mother of six kids, all of whom have special or medical needs. Just shy of two years ago, she and her husband lost their 7-year-old son after a long battle. She found that the time spent at the shooting range was therapeutic. And, after her son passed away, she found herself spending even more time there, working through her grief.
“Just me and my SIG ,” Julie said.
As Julie began to heal, she realized that standing stationary and shooting at a paper target just wasn’t good enough. So she sought out private training from a retired Navy SEAL.
“I spent many hours and went through thousands of rounds as he whipped me into shape,” she recalled. “I knew I was a good shot. But I didn’t know that I had picked up some bad habits from failing to seek out good instruction early in my training.”
Not long after that experience, Julie found herself sharing her love for firearms and her newfound knowledge and skills with others. Always a teacher at heart and realizing her own shortcomings and bad habits, she was determined to teach in a responsible, safe and effective way. So she went through the process to become certified, applied for a business license, started a Facebook page and website, and bought insurance. And with that, Montana Gun Gal was born.
The only possible downside for Julie’s new career choice was that she’s the only firearms trainer who lives and works in her small town. She’s also the only female trainer for many miles. And as a brand new instructor, a woman and a “hobby shooter,” she struggled early on with confidence.
So she was surprised when an instructor she had never met began attacking her personally and questioning her qualifications.
“How in the world did I become a firearms instructor?” she questioned herself. “I’m just a mom!”
Most of Julie’s peers and fellow instructors were helpful and supportive. She trained with several of them and often sent more advanced students their way. So she was surprised when an instructor she had never met began attacking her personally and questioning her qualifications. This negativity could have easily discouraged her or gotten her off track, especially when she was already questioning her abilities, but because she respects, understands and agrees with the need for properly trained, quality instructors, this incident only furthered her motivation. And she decided to pursue another instructor certification.
Julie mentioned to me that as she began to explore her options, she checked out the qualifications of other female instructors and said that I came to mind. That’s when she noticed USCCA on my list of certifications.
“I had already decided to pursue becoming a USCCA instructor,” Julie said, “but my busy schedule and my unexpected success significantly limited my time. I had several months worth of classes already scheduled and filling up. But I needed curriculum … and I needed it now!”
All the motivation Julie needed was before her. So she called the USCCA headquarters and discovered that Parker, six hours from her home, had just become a training counselor.
“I all but begged the poor guy to run the course for me right away,” Julie recounted. “Not only did he quickly find the required amount of students, but he also accommodated my crazy life and my already packed class schedule!”
Julie was excited to have another certification behind her and a new set of opportunities before her.
Julie purchased, received and completed the online portion of the course. She loved the materials and was beyond excited to take the classroom portion. And with Will as her instructor, she was not disappointed.
“Will is a wonderful teacher,” she said. “And I know that teaching teachers (especially someone who teaches as often as I do) has got to be a huge challenge. Not only did I ask a million questions, but I also had plenty of opinions, and I’m not used to keeping my mouth shut! What a trouper! He was so helpful. And, by the end of the course, I was feeling more confident and ready to join the USCCA team.”
Julie was excited to have another certification behind her and a new set of opportunities before her. But then Will said something that brought her extraordinary experience full circle. He mentioned in passing that I had been his training counselor. And it was at that moment that all three of our seemingly immense and distant worlds got much smaller … and much closer.
Thinking back to what had brought her to Will’s class, Julie remembered her research. She remembered finding me and reading some articles and blog posts I’d written. She remembered me telling others that if I, just a mom with a gun, could do this, then they could most certainly do it as well.
“Without ever meeting me or speaking to me, Beth touched my life,” Julie explained. “As I struggled, she brought me such comfort without even knowing it (through the “Pacifiers & Peacemakers” blog and articles in Concealed Carry Magazine). She pushed me toward a goal of being a well-trained, ‘just a mom’ instructor, and she even had a hand in making it possible.”
Upon hearing Julie’s testimonial, I was stunned, amazed and incredibly humbled. And I was very anxious to hear what she had on her radar next. She admitted that she has no idea what the future holds for her with regards to her firearms training and instruction. But she is now more than certain that she can stand proud of the hard work and dedication she’s put into becoming a well-trained instructor.
Just so you know, Julie was able to put her hard work and dedication to the test by leading her first USCCA class in March 2016 … “and I (taught) it with confidence!” she said. “All of these puzzle pieces fit into the big picture of my life as an instructor. And I am so grateful to have followed this path.”
And I am proud to report that I was able to teach side by side with Will as a fellow training counselor for a recent instructor certification course. When I asked him for his thoughts on the matter, he agreed with Julie, adding, “Enough cannot be said about the USCCA and how the people who work there make the wheels turn. The USCCA is absolutely a TEAM, and I am very proud to be a Platinum Lifetime Member, an instructor and a training counselor.”
I know that I said at the very beginning that this triumphant tale was not really about me, and it’s not … but I sure am glad that I was able to be a small part of it. It’s always encouraging to hear students’ success stories. It reminds me of how proud and honored I am to be part of a program that works, changes lives and builds confident, well-trained and responsible firearms instructors.