HE IS an American by blood, a Filipino at heart, and a Dabawenyo by choice.

Rand Bentson, a retired US Army senior non-commissioned officer, former member of the elite United States Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) at Fort Benning, Georgia USA, is a living proof that life is indeed here in Davao.

"I like it here, you could really retire here, people are friendly, you could be in the taxi anywhere in the PH and when you mentioned Davao City, it is always attached with good reputation because of its safety and good governance," the 53-year-old shared.

He added that he feels safer in Davao than in his own country.

"My experience in Davao has been good, honestly as a foreigner, I feel safer here than some place in America, I never worried when I go to ATMs and walking in the dark," Bentson said.

Philippines has always been close to the heart of Bentson. He was born in the country at Clark Air Force Base on June 16, 1964 when his father, who was a military, Donavon Bentson, was assigned as a communications specialist in the United States Army before.

The Bentson family left the Philippines for follow-on military assignments in the US.

After retiring from the US Army in 2006, Bentson decided to return and visit the land of his birth in 2009. After his first visit, he adopted Davao City as his new home, due in part because of its good reputation and the leadership of then mayor, now President Rodrigo Duterte.

"I originally came to the Philippines to retire and do some charity work, but as I once answered the call of duty for my own country, I now seek to answer the call of duty for the country of my birth," he said.

Bentson, after sharing his story of becoming a Filipino, narrated how he became a professional shooter and a distinguished marksman in the US Army.

When he graduated high school in the US, he was awarded with a scholarship to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology for nuclear engineering. Unfortunately, he was only able to attend two semesters following his father's death which left him in a state of poverty and forced to leave his scholarship and decided to go to military service to honor his late father.

Bentson rendered decades in the US Army. He began his military career in 1987 when he joined the US Army and attended Basic Infantry and Advanced infantry training, and the US Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

From his first duty assignment, Bentson was promoted ahead of his peers because of his exceptional skills in shooting that is sharp, precise, and clean.

He was awarded the President’s Hundred Tab and a Distinguished Rifleman. He was invited to try out for the position of Sniper Squad leader, Scout Platoon, HQ Company. After the grueling Scout trials, SGT (p) Bentson earned his position to lead the Sniper detachment.

"I was selected to attend Sniper school, where I earned the honor of Distinguished Graduate and Top Gun, firing a perfect score throughout training. Then, I was promoted to Staff Sergeant while in Korea," he shared.

In 1999, he became the most successful coach in High-power and US Army history, winning all Inter-service team, and National trophy team as well as 1000 yard matches in a single year.

After his many successes in shooting and training, he was selected to conduct an Army-wide evaluation of marksmanship training by then US Army Chief of Staff General Reimer. The tasking was coordinated through the Infantry Center, Fort Benning and involved visits to all the basic training installations as well as various Army units from Supply and logistics to US Army Rangers (Socom).

"With my experience and observations, I thought and initiated training materials and began a professional ‘train the trainer program,’ for US Army Drill Sergeants, BRM committee trainers, and Infantry leaders, that is still a success today," he said.

He also took the initiative and began Inter-service marksmanship training, participating in several US Navy Seal Sniper courses as a guest Senior instructor and rewriting the marksmanship portions and training of the Naval Special Warfare group #1 sniper course itself.

He also instructed several Special Forces (ODA) A-Teams as well as numerous US Army Ranger leaders and Snipers.

"I fully support President Duterte's policies regarding the war on terrorism, fight against illegal drugs, and anti-corruption efforts as well. If I could be of help in his administration, I am willing. I can help and I want to help," he said.

Bentson added that he sent a proposal letter to Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"My proposal is simple, enhanced marksmanship skills," he said.

Examples of these, he said, include basic rifle and pistol marksmanship; advanced rifle and pistol marksmanship; sniper orientation and sustainment; and counter sniper operations.

“Does practice make perfect? No! I submit to you, that only perfect practice makes perfect,” Bentson wrote in his proposal letter.

Bentson is busy with his training initiatives to private entities with "Str8tshooter training solutions" and is currently the Vice President of Doxa, a community of cryptocurrency enthusiasts and experts, the only one in the Philippines.