UC High’s JROTC Brings Centurion Spirit to Annual Drill Meet

Shaynen Gold, Staff Writer

For the first time in four years, University City High School’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (MCJROTC) competed in the annual “Golden Bear” West Coast National Drill Meet, taking home two trophies from the April 29 competition held at North High School in Torrance, California.

This year’s Golden Bear Drill Meet brought teams from across the United States and its territories, according to the Golden Bear Roster, with schools as far North as Anchorage, Alaska and as far West as Guam and Saipan bringing their JROTC programs’ various teams to compete.

According to the website for North High School’s JROTC program, “The Golden Bear West Coast National Drill Meet consists of several competitions between four Divisions; Unarmed [Drill], Armed [Drill], Color Guard, and Saber [Drill]… the Golden Bear Drill Meet is the biggest JROTC competition on the west coast” (saxonjrotc.org).
This year, UC High’s MCJROTC entered Junior Varsity Teams for the Armed Drill/Exhibition, Color Guard, and Unarmed Drill/Exhibition divisions, winning second place overall in Junior Varsity Color Guard and second place in inspection for the Junior Varsity Armed Drill Team.

According to UC High Junior Varsity Armed Drill Team Commander Senior Maven Canave, during a drill competition, “Cadets [JROTC students] perform a variety of synchronized [marching] movements and stationary commands within a set perimeter…. All teams are judged based on their precision, timing, and overall performance, with the goal of achieving flawless execution.”
In addition to marching movements, Canave mentioned that each Division participates in an inspection portion of the competition. The inspection portions of competitions consist of active-duty military service members inspecting cadets to check if they are wearing their uniforms/equipment properly, and asking questions from a wide variety of topics. These topics can range from current events and general military subjects to what cadets are being taught in their JROTC classes and the specifications of their uniforms and equipment.
Junior Varsity Armed Drill Team Member Senior Jefferson Nguyen explained the differences between the Unarmed Drill, Armed Drill, and Color Guard Teams, stating that Unarmed Drill consists of nine or more cadets who together make up a platoon. The platoon marches together in a three-column formation to different commands called by their team commander. A column must stay aligned and in pace with the column to their right. Each cadet follows the lead of the cadet ahead of them and performs drill [marching and stationary] commands in sync or in sequence, depending on what command is called.

Nguyen also mentioned an Unarmed Exhibition Team. Nguyen described exhibition as a sort of “freestyle” marching form, where cadets create their own marching routines that can involve unofficial commands that they came up with. He compared it to a sort of, “What can we do that looks and sounds cool or impressive?” According to Nguyen, exhibition incorporates noises such as claps, snaps, stomping, and more to create a beat that flows with their marching movements.

Nguyen continued on to explain that Armed Drill is very similar to Unarmed Drill; however, the platoon performs drill movements while carrying 8.6 pound replica rifles. These rifles add more complexity, modifying regular drill commands and adding new commands that can not be performed without rifles. Additionally, UC High’s Armed Drill Team has a cadet who fills the role of a guide. The guide marches in front of the platoon with the MCJROTC program’s unit flag, leading the platoon in drill movements and performing their own, separate movements. The role adds complexity to drill, but incorporating a guide can grant more points in a competition.

Nguyen added that Armed Drill also has an exhibition category, involving movements such as spinning, throwing, and flipping rifles. It is different from the school band’s Color Guard Team as Armed Exhibition uses full-size, full weight replica rifles and marches without flags.
Nguyen described the MCJROTC Color Guard Team as being different from the drill teams, consisting of only four members. The team is commanded by a cadet carrying an American flag, who stands next to a cadet carrying the Marine Corps flag, along with one cadet carrying a replica rifle at each end of the formation. Color Guard stresses synchronization, precise timing of commands, and requires a total focus on the commands. Nguyen stated that aside from competitions, Color Guard Teams are utilized in various ceremonies and events inside and outside of school, such as performing during the national anthem at home football games.

“We had a lot of work to do, especially with synchronization,” said Junior Varsity Color Guard Member Freshman Justin Lai, “We had a new member join our team mid-year, so we had to adjust our habits to stay in step with each other.”

“I felt very nervous before stepping onto the drill pad,” explained Lai, “But as soon as we started competing I felt an immediate calm. We had practiced for this, and I was just thinking, ‘We can do this! We have gotten through this before and we are almost there.’”
A similar feeling was echoed by Nguyen, “It was very stressful preparing for it [a national competition], but once we finished our marching and inspection phases it was very relieving.”

Junior Varsity Unarmed Drill Team Commander Sophomore Kimberly Ng expressed her thoughts on the competition: “I think we [the Unarmed Drill team] did really well. We had some difficulties today but we really pulled through and exuded confidence.”
Lai reported that the victory made him feel even more motivated to continue to practice, and to practice more often in preparation for next year’s competition, where he hopes his team will achieve first place.

Nguyen, who will graduate this year, stated the significance of the victory to him: “This competition truly had schools from all over the nation fighting for the podium; the competition we were up against was challenging, and to have been placed in the top three for any team is like a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.”