Since August, the Smith-Cotton JROTC drill teams have been practicing and perfecting their performances leading up to this weekend.
The armed and unarmed drill teams and color guard units leave this morning to begin their drive to Louisville, Kentucky, where they will compete in the 2016 U.S. Army Cadet Command JROTC National Drill Championships. Attending will be the entire drill team (31 cadets), nine parents and the team’s coaches.
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Bush is one of the coaches who train the drill team. Bush and the team put in two hours each day Monday through Thursday to get ready for Saturday’s competition, which will include inspections, armed and unarmed drill competitions, and armed and unarmed color guard competitions. The big question left is, are they ready?
“Yes, they’ve put a lot of time and effort,” Bush said.
The S-C JROTC program has won two drill national championships, and two all-service drill national titles.
“We’d like to win the whole thing this year,” Bush said.
The expectations are high this year, but Bush finds his team to be very motivated and focused on its goal. He said the cadets just need to “be consistent, do their best. It’s all about them. They have to have the mental attitude that they can do it.”
Hollee Akers, color guard commander and inspection commander, has been on the drill team all four years of her high school career. She spends around 30 minutes every morning practicing on top of the two-hour practice with the team. As a whole, she finds this year’s team to be like a family who are all driven to obtain their goal.
“Ultimately the goal is to win the national championship,” Akers said. “The team is ready for that.”
Practicing for this day began at the beginning of the school year and Akers believes that the cadets’ hard work is going to pay off. Fewer than 5 percent of the JROTC units nationally are accepted to compete at this weekend’s event. Smith-Cotton’s drill team will be competing against more than 150 schools from 30 different states. But the S-C team isn’t worried.
“We’re ready,” Akers said.
Sarah Skrzypczak is a Smith-Cotton High School student.