By RACHAEL TOLLIVER
U.S. Army Cadet Command
Junior ROTC cadets from all over the U.S. arrived in Louisville April 4 for the annual Army JROTC National Drill Classic event which pits the best exhibition drill, color guard, regulation drill and inspection teams against one another.
Event director Justin Gates said the competition is always tough but at the beginning of the day he had his eye on a few programs he thought might rise above the rest, such as West Creek High School and Smith Cotton High School.
But he added that some of last year’s powerhouses were not in attendance, preferring to save their money for the All-Service National High School Drill Team Championships later this spring. That meant other schools saw an opening to step out and step up to showcase their skills.
For cadets Dennis and Anthony Muentes, from Xavier High School in New York, it created what they saw as an opportunity.
“We are here at Army JROTC nationals competing for a first place—that is an opportunity for us and we have learned you should always take an opportunity,” Dennis said.
At the end of the day, Dennis was right—Xavier’s drill team took home a first place in the unarmed inspection, a fourth in the unarmed exhibition and a fourth overall in the nation.
The U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox commanding general, Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs, was in attendance and visited individually with cadets and with teams. She also participated in the awards ceremony and told the cadets that she was impressed with their hard work and sacrifice, was glad to have met so many outstanding young people, and that the effort, sacrifice and teamwork needed to compete at this level made all the cadets there winners.
The team that traveled the farthest came from Waianae High School, Hawaii. And while the cadets said the weather in Kentucky was colder than the island temperatures they are used to, they were using the experience at nationals as a learning experience.
“Competition is about having fun and learning about what you have to work on in the future to make your team and yourself better,” said cadet Christian Stephens, from Waianae High School.
When it was all said and done, Ozark High School from Ozark, Mo., took overall first place in the Unarmed Division, while Union High School from Union, N.J., captured overall first place in the Armed Division.
For all results visit http://www.the nationals.net/army_results_2014.pdf.
To view photos, visit http://armyrotc. smugmug.com/JROTC/2014-Army-JROTC-National-Drill.