AFJROTC cadets place second in NorCal drill meet

The ROTC drill team poses with their trophies after the NorCal drill meet April 16th. Photo by Shai Nielson

 

Pull into the parking lot of Cosumnes Oaks High School and walk up to the crowded stadium. Most will assume the massive amount of cars were all there for the track meet, but a small sheet of binder paper, poorly torn with a chunk missing from the quick last minute addition of it to the gate, shows proof of a second event at the school. The sign says “ROTC” with an arrow pointing to the left in blue pen.

Follow the arrow to the back of the school where the echos of fans cheering at the track meet can still be heard by anyone nearby and what is seen are about 15-18 schools represented by their AFJROTC drill teams. The teams get the outdoor basketball courts, along with almost no spectators besides some parents, to do what they have prepared all year for.

“This is the ultimate competition that we strive all year and work so hard towards,” Cadet Captain Molly Miles said.

Miles is talking about the NorCal Drill Meet that took place on April 16th, and is the most important meet of the year for the ROTC cadets because it shows who is the best of the best.

A drill meets consists of eight events and each school has a team for almost all of them. There are color guard, armed and unarmed teams, and each compete after first going through their first event: inspection.

Inspection is where the team of about 10 people (for armed and unarmed) or four (for color guard) line up and up to three inspectors address each cadet by yelling questions at them. The questions can be specific to what is a certain rank in the Air Force, or something as simple as “What did you have for breakfast?” Questions like that are asked to see if a cadet will break bearing, or falter in their position and not be able to properly respond. The inspectors also make sure each cadet’s uniform is clean and in order.

“Everything has to be perfect (in inspection). The purpose is to see if we are good enough to drill,” Cadet Captain and unarmed commander Andrew Huie said.

Once the torture is over and the parents can stop worrying about their poor babies being screamed at, the team can finally compete.

For the color guard team, two cadets stand between two others holding rifles. The two in the middle hold either the California state flag or the American flag and the four of them march in a synchronized routine and cannot flinch even if the flags cover their face.

On the other hand, the unarmed team competes in unarmed standard, a routine that every school does the same, and then unarmed exhibition, where the routine can be choreographed to the commander’s preference.

“Exhibition takes more dedication and more drive because the movements need to be memorized. The exhibition commander has to work hard to come up with the routine and make sure it is possible for everyone to perform it successfully,” Huie said.

Like the unarmed team, the armed team also goes through inspection, standard and exhibition. Unloaded Springfield rifles that weigh about 8 lbs are hoisted by the armed team throughout each event. Though throwing a rifle above one’s head is illegal, the Wildcats have some signature moves to spice up their routine in exhibition.

“First is the circle drop where we all march in a circle and drop the rifles at the same time and you grab the one in front of you, and the Whitney windmill is where we all spin the rifles at the same time,” Cadet Captain and armed exhibition commander Aaron Oborn said.

Once all teams have finished each event, the judges begin tallying scores and those who wish to participate in the drill down do so.

“The drill down is when anyone (from any of the schools) who wants to participate, forms up and someone will call commands and you have to execute them properly. They will try to confuse you by calling (the moves) really quickly or saying something wrong to see if you will make a wrong move or break bearing,” Miles said.

The winners of the drill down are announced and the clapping comes to an end as the anticipated awards ceremony begins. At this year’s meet, the Wildcats placed second in both color guard inspection and routine, placed third in unarmed standard and placed second in armed exhibition while placing first in both armed standard and armed inspection. Overall, they placed with a close second to Luther Burbank High School for the entire drill meet.

“Since we have made a name for ourselves (in previous years), there’s a lot of pressure because we are the team to beat and we need to keep that name upheld,” Miles said.

Though the Wildcats have swept the meet the last few years, placing first overall, there is hope for the future.

“You can’t win every time. We tried our best and we will be back next year to win,” Oborn said.

By SHAI NIELSON