Cadets Keep in Step at Drill Competition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael Matkin
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Sharply dressed uniformed participants in polished dress shoes marching in formation come to a stomping halt. The young men and women are the epitome of having military bearing and these young men and women are not servicemembers. They are high school students, and competitors in the 10th annual West-Mitchell Invitational Drill Meet. The Cadets came to win.

JROTC Cadets from around Arizona and Texas arrived at the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix to compete. This year 30 schools and more than 1,000 students showed up for the competition vying for trophies and the bragging rights that go along with them. Hosted by members of Sons of The American Legion Post One, the popularity of the drill meet is becoming larger and more competitive than ever.

"This is what we practiced for all year," said cadet 2nd Lt. Luke Oldham, Alpha Company Executive Officer, Casa Grande High School, Casa Grande, Ariz. "It was a great chance for us to [showcase] everything we have been working on."

"It is truly inspiring to see the dedication, perseverance, hard work and training the cadets have put into this," said Col. Steven Balser, Wing Commander of the 161 ARW. "They take extra time out of their extracurricular activities to do what needs to be done to compete and then they take one step more, giving it their all."

Units and cadets received evaluation under various categories in regulation, exhibition, inspection, and armed and unarmed competitions. The competition also featured an armed and unarmed drill down competition. A drill down is similar to the Simon Says game. Cadets follow a series of commands and those who miss a step are eliminated while those who follow the commands continue to compete until one person remains.

The winner of the unarmed drill down was Jake Suss from Deer Valley High School, Glendale, Ariz. The winner of the armed drill down was Jocelyn Johnson from Westview High School, Avondale, Ariz.

Although not everyone was able to take home a trophy, the cadets are all winners in their own right, said Sgt. 1st Class Ron Brawner, drill instructor for Alhambra High School, Phoenix. He said that learning and competing in drill sets the cadets up for future life endeavors by teaching valuable life lessons such as attention to detail, discipline and awareness of ones surroundings.

During the closing remarks, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard congratulated the cadets, instructors and their families for their hard work and time they put into preparing for the competition. "You make us all proud. I know that you are all going to have extraordinary success in your future careers because what you have done here makes you ready," said Goddard.