Black Rain Ordnance is proud to announce a partnership with 2013 Miss Kansas Theresa Vail. Don’t let the title fool you, this woman is much much more than a beauty queen.
“For my first blog of the year with Black Rain Ordnance, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself for those who may not know me. Most people know me as a former Miss Kansas, or “the one with the tattoos” as I often hear it. While that year was undoubtedly the launching pad for my career in this industry, it is but a mere title and in no way does it define who I am. Before spontaneously deciding to compete for Miss Kansas in 2013, I was an introverted, loner of a person (who am I kidding, I still am). On weekend breaks away from my college studies of chemistry and Chinese, hunting and shooting with my dad was my solace. These hobbies were traditions passed on through generations—as my late grandfather taught my dad, and as he taught me. I distinctly recall memories of learning to shoot in my basement, with hallways as firing lanes and Barbie dolls as targets (cue the offense card). My dad was the last person to believe that because I was a girl I should be restricted to “appropriate” gender roles. He didn’t care that in 5th grade I wore my brother’s clothes, or that in 6th grade I wrote a “how-to” project on field dressing a deer. All he cared about was my happiness—and shooting made me happy. I was, and still am, a rough-and-tumble girl that prefers guns and manual labor, but can rock the stage of Miss America in 6 inch heels and a dress.
During my year as Miss Kansas, I quickly became known for my love of shooting, and I’m thankful that Kansas embraced me for it. Even in my Miss America interview, the first question asked for my opinion on guns. My jest of a response, “in my opinion, a gun speaks a lot louder than a restraining order,” did not elicit any laughs. I was later told that a Miss America must not be politically biased or controversial. While I didn’t win the title, I did win “America’s Choice” by public voting. I won’t go into the specifics of my year, but it was just that—a year-long internship, albeit one that afforded me many opportunities.
One of those opportunities was hosting my own show on the Outdoor Channel. I was a poor college student from Kansas, so the idea of getting paid to hunt and travel sounded quite appealing. I soon learned, however, that money cannot make you happy. My once-beloved and sacred hobby became my job. No longer could I enjoy the serenity of the woods and have conversations with God in my head. Instead, I had to worry about saying this and doing that for the camera. While this is still a dream job for some people, it was not MY dream job. Additionally, I found that common mistakes to any hunter were highlighted only if I did them. If I missed a deer with my bow, it was because I am woman, or it was because I am incompetent. Never mind the fact that every hunter will miss at some point in their lives—their mistake just isn’t on camera. Not once did I claim to be an expert, but rather an ever-learning student. When I succeeded, I analyzed what I did right; when I failed, I owned it and made sure the same mistake would never happen again. I ended up quitting after one season.
Upon leaving my own show, I was presented with the opportunity to host the NRA’s show, NRA All Access. I didn’t think I wanted to do TV anymore but upon analyzing my role in Limitless, I finally understood why I specifically hated it; it was all about me. It is important to note that I was one of 9 children and our family mantra was “others before self.” We were not raised to be self-serving. In fact, at one point in my younger life, I was truly considering becoming a nun! The problem I had with my show, was that it was MY show. I jumped at the chance of hosting NRA All Access because, although it was TV, it was not all about me. I am simply a host. To the inspiring people we profile on the show, I get to ask the questions that allow our viewers an opportunity to see into the heart and soul of them. The focus is not on me. If you get a chance to watch it, we’re on Outdoor Channel on Friday at 8:30 pm EST. In the current season I am a redhead (don’t ask, I went through a phase), but in July we’ll have all new episodes.
Now that you have rudimentary knowledge on the soap opera of my life, I want to share with you the part I take greatest pride in, and the reason behind my excitement in partnering with Black Rain Ordnance. When I was 17 I joined the Kansas Army National Guard with written consent from my parents. I was hesitant at first, because my dream had always been to go active-duty Army after all of my college was complete. I didn’t relish the fact of enlisting, or joining the National Guard for that matter. However, it turned out to be the best decision I have ever made and I have my recruiter, my brother-in-law, to thank for that. Not only am I essentially debt-free from school, but being in the Army National Guard has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my civilian career goals while also serving my state and country. I have served for almost 9 years but have not have the chance to deploy yet. I joined as a mechanic and graduated from the Army School of Ordnance in Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD as a 63B, while earning the highest academic position in the class; distinguished honor graduate. After three years in, I transferred to the medical detachment as a dental specialist because I thought I wanted to be a dentist. And finally, for the last three years I have been in public affairs, for very obvious reasons.
Now, where is the connection between the Army National Guard and Black Rain Ordnance, you ask? Well, my love for the AR platform was born in boot camp. I was well-accustomed to long guns before this, but I had not touched an AR until I picked up my baby, my M16 A2 rifle, in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Back in 2007, women were not allowed into combat positions yet. So before you hate on me, know that every ounce of my being wanted to be and do more. I wanted to be the grunt kicking doors in, or the gunner that my comrades trusted, but at that point in time I legally could not fulfill my dreams of being G.I. Jane. I often joke that God cursed me with being a woman, solely for the fact that all of the things I wanted to do in life are not available to me, and it’s frowned upon that I even think about them (Spec Ops). Anyway, that rifle—my rifle—was the one thing that connected me to the combat positions. When we went to the range in basic training, it was not segregated by job title. I was qualifying side-by-side with infantrymen, artillerymen, mechanics, human resources, etc. That rifle was the one thing I could equally compete with. Male or female, if you could shoot, you earned respect. We were taught to appreciate our rifles. We ate with them, slept with them, even did PT with them. We learned to disassemble them with swift efficiency, and we learned to clean them with diligent care. Our rifles were extensions of us. That M16 was not just a rifle to me, it was a symbol of equality. For when I fired it, I could shoot with the best of them.
To this day, our annual weapons qualification on the M16 range is my favorite. Quickly acquiring and engaging pop-up targets from 25 to 300 yards will never get old. It may be a decades-old weapon with old-school iron sights, but the M16 is the one weapon that I can legitimately and factually say I am an expert with. Black Rain Ordnance has now given me the chance to have that feeling year-round, not just in uniform. The day my BRO Scout arrived, If I were a crier I would have been bawling. I took him home from the gun shop, disassembled and cleaned him, and reminisced on my boot camp days. This is going to be a good year…” – Theresa
Theresa Vail will be regularly contributing to the Black Rain Ordnance News Section throughout the year. Check out her FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM. She will Also be Signing Autographs at The Black Rain Ordnance Booth (# 2137) during the NRA Annual Meetings Saturday May 21st at 2:00 PM.
Special thanks to Mason Gertz for providing the photos for this post.
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