Red Tails Fly to Victory

Mary Mangual, Student Life Editor

Last weekend the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Red Tail Drill team competed for titles at the national Air Force JROTC drill meet in Macon, Georgia.

Three of Ola’s teams placed in two events: Dual Unarmed Exhibition and Unarmed Inspection. The Dual Unarmed Exhibition teams placed first and third in the country and the Unarmed Inspection team placed fourth. This is the second time Ola’s drill team has gone to nationals. Last year they went to the national meet in Washington D.C. and even though they had a larger team, they did not place. Sergeant Byron Wrenn thought that going to nationals last year motivated the team for this year. “I think the experience of them going to DC last year prepared them mentally to understand that it takes a lot of hard work, and this year, actually competing well and putting in more time and effort and understanding that it takes a lot of discipline to compete and actually to fare well…” He was proud.

The Red Tails had to place at state before moving to nationals. Cecelia Stokes, senior, explained what it felt like to realize the team was going to nationals, “It was scary, because it’s not just the Georgia schools we are used to. There were some from California. It was really surreal.”

Stokes is part of the Unarmed Inspection team that won fourth place. She described what she thought helped the team to place. “The teamwork that went into making sure everything was right, like making sure our uniforms were right and when they ask you questions making sure everyone knew their questions. It’s really weird to explain, like all the background work going into it I guess.”

Marissa Sety, sophomore, agreed that it was teamwork that set their team apart. “We definitely worked as a group.” She commented. Sety said she plans to do drill again next year.

Before this year, Ola’s JROTC had never entered a Dual Unarmed Exhibition team in their meets. Sergeant Torrance McGee said this was because no team had been willing to take the challenge. This year, however, two cadets, Jasmine Carter, senior, and Tameescha Beliard, junior, decided to try it. McGee said, “I told them, I said, ‘I think ya’ll would do really well’ and their first competition they won. But I told them it wasn’t good enough. I said ‘Let’s look at the score sheets.’ You won but your scores are low. There are three categories ‘Below Average, Average, and Exceptional’ I said ‘All your scores are below average or average.’ But they said, ‘We won Sergeant McGee’ I said, ‘No it’s not good enough.’ So we changed their routine.”

When McGee said ‘we’ the girls generated the intellectual property and McGee functioned as the judge. Before state they amended their routine to make it more competitive. McGee said, “What I try to do in our ROTC program when it comes to drill is I’m trying to build character and allow them to take responsibility for the process. And they comes with, collateral damage, because while they’re learning how to be a leader, while they’re learning how to teach other cadets, they’re learning life skills to become a leader on the outside, how to interact with other people, conflict management, dealing with disagreements when ‘this person’s not listening to me.’ They took responsibility, I helped mentor them. When they made a routine I said, ‘make the changes you think you need to make… That’s not good.” For the championship they added something they said, “Sergeant McGee, Sergeant McGee, this is so cool check it out.” And I watched and I said,” He shook his head, “They said ‘what?’ and I said, ‘don’t do that’ I said, “It might be a good move for a dance studio but for drill it’s not good.’ Then they came up with something better and I said, ‘That’s really good. That movement right there is going to put your score up so high.’ They scored the highest points ever. At nationals they scored 797 points out of 1020 points.”

Carter described the most challenging part of the competition for her, “Probably the pressure just trying to push it all to the side and trying to push through.”

In addition the JROTC drill team had four cadets place in the top twenty in the Armed Individual Drill Regulation event: Cadet Natalie Kincaid, junior, Cadet Aaron Lewis, Junior, Cadet Noah Kowalczyk, freshman, and Cadet Austin Thomas, junior.

Wrenn thinks this bodes well for the team in the future. He said, “Some of the first year cadets that went that didn’t compete saw like ‘wow this is really…’ they have to take it up a notch when they get to that level. I think everybody’s going to be really focused next year.”

 

Sergeant McGee calls this picture "The Moment." It was taken after the Red Tails Drill team took home a national title.

Torrance McGee
Sergeant McGee calls this picture “The Moment.” It was taken after the Red Tails Drill team took home a national title.