When the Brigham Young University Air Force ROTC drill team started rehearsing last fall, most of the cadets had never shot a rifle before, let alone spun one.
The drill team has come a long way: the 12-man rifle team won first place overall at the Southern California Invitational Drill Meet, one of the largest drill competitions in the nation. The team participated in inspection, regulation and exhibition phases of competition, with their combined score placing them at the top.
BYU made a good showing at the event, with the color guard tying for first place and the four-man rifle team taking third.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” says Major Alan Hanks, a professor of aerospace studies in the Marriott School of Management. “Our teams have been placing second or third for the past few years, but they’ve never placed first. They had a lot of drive this year.”
The drill team put in long hours of practice to hone its skills and build team unity.
“We spent 10 to 15 hours practicing each week just to prepare for this,” says Erik Hulme, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Spring, Texas, and commander of the drill team. “It got to a point that when I gave commands, the cadets didn’t think about it, they just did it.”
The rigorous practice schedule prepared the teams to go up against cadets and midshipmen from the Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force; the competition hosted more than 100 junior and senior teams from around the country.
“It’s a great feeling that comes from working as a team toward a goal that pushes us to be the best in the face of stiff competition,” says Jared Williams, a sophomore majoring in history from Minot, North Dakota, and member of the drill team.
Practice wasn’t limited to the field, either. For the inspection portion of the drill competition, members of the 12-man rifle team each studied at least ten hours to prepare to answer any questions the inspector, a Marine drill sergeant, might ask. The questions mainly focused on chain of command within the armed forces.
“For the inspection, it’s all about how much you know and how well you react under pressure,” Hulme says. “Everyone knew their stuff, and when the Marines yelled at them, they yelled back and didn’t back down or lose their bearings.”
The 12-man rifle team took first in the regulation phase, third in the inspection phase and second in the exhibition phase of the competition. Their combined scores qualified them for first overall.
As part of this week's BYU Commencement Exercises, the Air Force ROTC will commission 17 cadets at a ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 25, in the Wilkinson Student Center Ballroom. The speaker will be Tom Holmoe, BYU athletic director.
For this and other Marriott School news releases, visit the online newsroom at marriottschoool.byu.edu/news.
Writer: Cindy Badger