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Bob Jones AFJROTC Drill Teams surf to championship in Daytona Beach

MADISON – Air Force JROTC Drill Teams from Bob Jones High School surfed to the national championship in Daytona Beach, Fla. at the National High School Drill Team Championships.

Bob Jones competed on May 1 at the Ocean Center Convention Center.

“This massive competition consists of several divisions, culminating in nearly 58 schools and well over 1,500 students. An additional 20-plus schools participated virtually; numbers there are untold,” retired Chief Master Sgt. Ellis Clark said. Clark, an AFJROTC instructor at Bob Jones, coaches archery, drill, honor guard and marksmanship teams.

Team members attending the competition were C/A1C Emma Amacher; C/Lt. Col. Sydney Baumbach, Color Guard & Flight Regulation Drill Routine Commander; C/SSgt Noah Beddingfield; C/A1C Catherine Curry; C/A1C Neil Di Gennaro; C/SrA Cassius Dodson; C/1st Lt. Jackson Ford, Exhibition Routine Commander; C/1st Lt. Ethan Fury; C/A1C Lucy Halter; C/SSgt. Carolyn Horne; C/Capt. Shaniya Jacobs-Lanier; C/AMN Laiken Justice; C/Maj. Hyun Kim; C/SSgt. David Lockart; C/A1C Jacob Palenapa, Color Guard Commander; C/A1C Joseph Palenapa; C/TSgt. Anthony Pena, Drill Team Commander; and C/A1C Kaitlyn Thompson.

Sponsored by Sports Network International, competition judges are active-duty Drill Instructors who are meticulously trained about routine details. Usually, a judge from the military’s four branches of service watch for differences in movement execution.

Yearly, the Bob Jones team participates in several local, regional and state competitions. Each level of competition prepares a team for the next higher level competition. However, this year most competitions were canceled due to COVID-19.

Regardless, cadets continued practicing drill routines to perfect the exactness of execution. Competitions normally are based on the team’s various formations and movements. “One may think these movements are relatively easy, but it’s completely the opposite; movements require lots of muscle memory, stamina and mental agility,” Clark said.

Bob Jones cadets performed only in the unarmed division, using rifle replicas from the Color Guard team. “The Palenapa brothers nailed the rifle portion of the Color Guard sequence going to the sling, then unsling arms and right shouldering rifles,” Clark said.

During competitions, Color Guard also carries the American and Air Force Colors.

Long before competition, students benefit from Drill Team and Color Guard. They learn discipline, teamwork and Air Force Core Values, “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do,” Clark said.

“Not every student in high school is a high-impact sport individual. Our (drill) teams provide a niche for many, on a scale comparable to a family,” Clark said. “They enjoy doing their part for the team’s success and learn to rely on each other.”

“When the chemistry is right, the team succeeds beyond measure . . . success at competition is their reward for hard work … and motivates (students) to do more,” he said.

Do teachers benefit from off-campus competitions? “A question with a very synergistic answer … Personally, I don’t benefit,” he said. Clark often wishes an anonymous benefactor could see AFJROTC’s activities and limited space and donate for room to practice any time versus when the building is vacant, like 5:30 a.m. “Just wishful thinking.”

Conversely, benefits result “when eighth-graders at Discovery Middle School see our cadets put on a good drill performance or hundreds of trophies our teams have earned. It draws their interest to our program,” Clark said.

Incoming AFJROTC students understand the required grooming standards. “Students and parents alike must realize that our program is not a bootcamp, or military recruitment tool. We’re here to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community,” Clark said.

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