Wilson’s JROTC drill team recently won the Best Elite Overall award at the General Earle Wheeler Drill Contest, a citywide drill team competition in which 10 schools from across the region competed for various awards on February 3rd. JROTC drill competitions focus on “precision, sharpness, and discipline” and not on physical abilities, according to Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Argueta.
Four Army judges from the DC National Guard presided over the event, making sure cadets remained serious and sharp, with clean uniforms and no movement during inspections. The cadets were even evaluated on seemingly minute details, such as whether their badges were in the right order, stern and sharp command voices, and no looking away from the inspectors.
According to Cadet First Lieutenant Krissha Deundo, the cadets were even evaluated on their bodily and dental hygiene when the judges came up to them and ask them to respond. (“Sir, yes sir!”) “I was nervous and scared but kept my military bearings at all times” said Cadet Second Lieutenant Kelly Blanco, who Argueta cited as a key component to the team’s success.
The team’s color guard, led by Argueta, proudly carried the flag and performed high-level precision movements. Though the team placed fifth in color guard and they still won a trophy, which is currently on display in the JROTC room accompanying the other five trophies the team won this year. The team also competed in unarmed and armed platoon competitions, in which 12 cadets led by Deundo and Argueta performed marching sequences. “We had to memorize over 60 different commands to prepare for the competition.” says Deundo.
The cadets also competed in a competition called knockout, in which all the cadets line up in a row and receive increasingly difficult commands from the judges. Cadets who make a mistake are eliminated, and the last cadet standing wins. Deundo, who placed third out of 300 in the knockout, credits the team’s success to their hard work and perseverance, as well as their coaches, Sergeant First Class Walter Davis and Major Charlene Lockett. Her sentiments are echoed by Argueta, who thinks that the team had “the most motivation, a lot of teamwork, and lots of family support.” “We’re the best team in the city!” says Assistant Drill Team Commander Cadet Second Lieutenant Ali Al-Saleh, who notes that the team puts in around ten hours of practice a week, usually an hour before and after school each day.
“Teamwork makes the dreamwork!” chuckled SFC Davis, saying that working together as a team and student leadership resulted in Wilson’s win. 15 cadets from Wilson’s program competed in the event. The elite cadets from Wilson’s JROTC look to continue their repeating winning streak at the annual event, and to continue to improve and hone their skills. Their next event is the 2nd annual Sport and Field Competition, which they are hosting on April 7th.