Meet the sharp-shooting women of the OCSD’s Ladies' Trigger Team

By Lou Ponsi

Investigator Maria Bowman of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff’s Special Officer Katie Olson are all for promoting strength and confidence in their profession.

They also are big fans of knowing your way around firearms.

Recently, at the Prado Olympic Shooting Range in Chino, Bowman, Olson and other members of the OCSD’s Ladies’ Trigger Team displayed their prowess at shooting.

OC Sheriff Dep. Carla Dane fires off a few rounds at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino as part of the OC Sheriff’s Department Ladies Trigger Team. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Deputy Susan Huang, left, with Sheriff’s Special Officers Jean Tindugan and Katie Olson of the OCSD’s Ladies’ Trigger Team add up the hits on the targets during competition at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino. The new holes are taped over in order to reuse the targets. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The all-female team is made up of about 15 sharpshooting deputies, reserve deputies and sheriff special officers who compete often and at a high level, even out-shooting men’s teams.

“The shooting team provides opportunities for women on the department to train and perfect our proficiency,” Bowman said. “It also works as a recruiting tool for the public who might be interested in a career in law enforcement but who are not sure if they are ‘cut out for it.’”

Bowman is a former team captain and has been an OCSD deputy for 11 years.

“You do not see a lot of females in law enforcement,” she said. “We are trying hard to recruit women and men for our department. For me, it’s great to have a group of women who are all here working together to make each other stronger and have friendly competition to increase our accuracy and speed, while at the same time showing the public that females are able to do this job.”

The team competes individually against each other and as a team against other shooting teams in a variety of events that include shooting at different types of targets and from varying distances, shooting and reloading, shooting rifles and pistols and shooting while running from target to target.

Other competitions are for law enforcement only and include events such as shooting pistols, shotguns and rifles, shooting from a variety of positions and shooting with one hand incapacitated.

OC Sheriff Dep. Susan Huang hits her targets as the shell casings fly during competition at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OCSD Deputy Susan Huang hits her targets as the shell casings fly.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

In one competition, the competitor has an unloaded weapon and must sprint to a locker, remember a combination to open the locker and grab the ammo, and then run back to load the gun.

In another, two teammates must carry a 160-pound beam for several feet, drop the beam and shoot and repeat the process.

“There are actually law enforcement competitions that (mirror) what can happen in real life,” said Olson.

When they compete, Ladies’ Trigger Team members wear uniforms that serve as a recruiting tool:

OC Sheriff Dep. Dallas Mihalik stands ready for her set of targets as Special Officer Jean Tindugan holds the blue shot clock behind her. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OCSD Deputy Dallas Mihalik stands ready for her set of targets as Sheriff Special Officer Jean Tindugan holds the blue shot clock behind her.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Short-sleeve shirts, with the shooter’s name in script written across the back with the phrase below the name that reads, “ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT Ladies’ Trigger Team, EXPLORE THE OPPORTUNITIES, WWW.OCSD.ORG.

The all-female shooting team began informally about three years ago.

OCSD Deputy Laurel Yoshimoto, who had been shooting competitively for years with her husband, Deputy Josh Yoshimoto, wanted to see the quality of shooting rise in her female partners.

Yoshimoto emailed other OCSD women, inviting them to join her at the range.

A few showed up and over time the group got larger and the quality of female shooting in OCSD rose.

In 2012, before the team existed, the percentage of women who got the OCSD Marksmanship Pin was only 3.4 percent, even though women made up 10 percent of the department. In 2015, the number of women receiving the OCSD Marksmanship Pin rose to 10.5 percent.

OC Sheriff Dep. Dallas Mihalik fires at a set of targets while being timed. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OCSD Deputy Dallas Mihalik fires at a set of targets while being timed.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

They began competing – and winning – often against men’s teams, Olson said.

Yoshimoto wrote a proposal, which made its way up the chain of command.

Eventually, the team became official.

OC Sheriff Dep. Norelly MejiaZea readies her magazine for the next round of shooting at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OCSD Deputy Norelly MejiaZea readies her magazine for the next round of shooting at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“For us,” Bowman said, “there is no drawback to training on the range even if it’s just paper targets. We are working on the fundamentals of shooting. Shooting is a perishable skill. We train hard so we can be the best law enforcement officers we can be.”

Olson agreed.

“Whenever that buzzer goes off, it induces stress,” Olson said. “We’re able to go out there and perform under stress and think about what we are doing, remembering to do those mag changes and gauging the distances and all that stuff plays a part when you are under stress. When we are out on the streets and something happens, we are able to perform under stress.”

OC Sheriff’s Department Ladies Trigger Team member Special Officer Jean Tindugan shoots for the target with Dep. Dallas Mihalik behind her holding the blue shot clock. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OCSD Ladies’ Trigger Team member Sheriff’s Special Officer Jean Tindugan shoots at a target with Deputy Dallas Mihalik holds the blue shot clock.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Dep. Dana Chaney of the OC Sheriff’s Department Ladies Trigger Team fires at her targets during a shooting competition. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Deputy Dana Chaney of the OCSD’s Ladies’ Trigger Team fires at targets during a shooting competition.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OC Sheriff Special Officer Katie Olson fires off a few rounds during competition. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OCSD Sheriff’s Special Officer Katie Olson fires off a few rounds during competition.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OC Sheriff Dep. Susan Huang changes magazines during a timed competition at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Deputy Susan Huang changes magazines during the timed competition.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Dep. Norelly MejiaZea of the OC Sheriff’s Department Ladies Trigger Team takes aim at her targets during competition at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Deputy Norelly MejiaZea of the OCSD’s Ladies’ Trigger Team takes aim at her targets during competition at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Some members of the OC Sheriff Department's Ladies' Trigger Team visit Alice Chandler, OCSD's first female deputy, after their target shoot at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park on Sunday, Dec. 4. The team, from left, is Susan Huang, Dana Chaney, Norelly MejiaZea, Carla Dane, (Alice Chandler), Maria Bowman, Gina Garduno, Dallas Mihalik and Jean Tindugan. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Some members of the OC Sheriff Department’s Ladies’ Trigger Team visit Alice Chandler, OCSD’s first female deputy, after their target shoot at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park on Sunday, Dec. 4. The team, from left, is Susan Huang, Dana Chaney, Norelly MejiaZea, Carla Dane, (Alice Chandler), Maria Bowman, Gina Garduno, Dallas Mihalik and Jean Tindugan.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC