ROTC’s drill teams reach new heights of success

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Elizabeth Rollison, Editor-in-chief

For the majority of students, Saturdays are a day to rest, recharge, and, most importantly, sleep in. However, for Liberty’s ROTC cadets, Saturdays often start in the wee hours of the morning, with full-day drill competitions promising excitement.
“Kids show up at school at about 5:30 in the morning,” NJROTC teacher Chief Matthew Spears said. “Then we go to whatever other high school we’re competing at, out of the seven in our area, or we set up at Liberty.”
Drill meets involve six different events: armed drill, unarmed drill, color guard, academics, physical fitness, and air rifle. Liberty’s ROTC has been steadily improving over the past few years, and the 2019-20 school year became the first to see the armed drill team achieve a place on the podium.
“You get to see lots of smiling faces. All the hard work pays off in success. That’s why I love this job,” NJROTC teacher Captain John Deehr said.
Part of the recent achievement in competition can be chalked up to a new point category. Armed drill, unarmed drill, and color guard are judged on two different criteria: regulation and exhibition.
Regulation involves the rules of competition for all schools, including how synchronized cadets are and how well they stay within the bounds of the court. On the other hand, exhibition is a set routine choreographed by students. Each exhibition portion is unique to the school that creates it.
This is the first year that Liberty ROTC has competed in the exhibition part of scoring, making it far easier for the teams to achieve a higher score. At the Graham-Kapowsin meet, the armed drill team took third place, and at the Kentwood meet, they placed second—making this the first year that the armed drill team has placed.
With the dramatic improvement of the armed drill team and continued success of the other event teams, Liberty ROTC is currently undefeated for this season of drill competitions, achieving the highest overall score, and are on track to take six teams to regionals.
“They’re doing exceptionally well, but nothing has been decided yet. We just keep telling them to continue working hard,” Spears said.
Although the cadets are inspired to continue fighting for their goals, they’re thrilled with the success that they’ve achieved thus far.
“It’s nice when you get to see your work pay off. As a team captain, it feels great, and it’s a lot of fun,” physical fitness team captain Emily Lew said.
It isn’t just the cadets who are proud of their achievements—Spears and Deehr are delighted with the progress that all the teams have made this year.
“When they get those awards, you finally get to see cadets accomplish their goals and do things they didn’t think they could do. That’s the highlight. It’s a joy to watch them.”