GOLDWATER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz. --
The Arizona National Guard’s 161st Air Refueling Wing hosted the 18th Annual West-Mitchell drill meet here, Feb. 18.
More than 400 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets represented 20 high schools at this year’s competition. The JROTC units competed in eight different drill categories including inspection, armed and unarmed regulation, color guard, and armed and unarmed exhibition drills.
Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Lowe, recruiting office supervisor for the wing, was the coordinator of this year’s competition. He said members of the 161st supported the event to acknowledge the sacrifices the cadets made to compete at this level.
“For a high school student to recognize the importance of being a part of something bigger than themselves and joining their school’s JROTC program is motivating to those of us currently serving,” Lowe said. “Each of them understands the value of working as a team toward a common goal. For the members of these drill teams, they dedicate countless hours to perform with excellence in drill competitions like the West-Mitchell; and winning here is no easy task.”
During the drill team inspection phase, cadets' overall appearance and bearing was closely inspected. Judges also questioned cadets on their knowledge of military history and ranks. Points were deducted from the team’s overall score for incorrect answers, loose military bearing, and improper wear of the uniform.
In the regulation drills, teams followed verbal commands, and carried ten-pound rifles in the armed categories. In unarmed and armed exhibition drills, teams created their own routines, which involved performing meticulous, coordinated movements in unison. Judges graded cadets using checklists and military drill manuals. Some events required verbal commands, while others employed coordinated footfalls and rifle taps to signal movements.
In the color guard drill, four-member teams with two flags and two rifles responded to a set of commands used in drill and military ceremonies from their cadet commander. They formally uncased both the United States and Arizona flags and then completed the drill movements.
Ryan Webb, a fourth-year AFJROTC cadet and senior from Gilbert High School, competed at West-Mitchell two years in a row. He said his experience in JROTC and as a member of the drill team inspired him to serve in the military after he graduates this year.
“I joined JROTC by accident my freshman year,” Webb said. “Once I was in, I realized that this was something I wanted to continue doing. The friendships I made and personal experiences I have had helped me decide to join the Army, and I cannot wait to go to basic training this fall.”
Col. Troy Daniels, the wing commander, presented the awards to the top performing teams in each category.
“The personal dedication and skills demonstrated here are what is needed to be a member in our military service today,” Daniels said. “It is competition like this that showcases the excellence of you future leaders from the next generation."
The overall winner of the 18th Annual West-Mitchell Drill Meet was Phoenix-based Thunderbird High School.