Among the many talented groups of students Tullahoma High School houses, including award-winning show choir and band programs and sports teams with quarterfinals and state tournament appearances to their credit, the THS Marine Corps JROTC program can also boast exemplary cadets.
According to Cadet Maj. Abigail Oliver, the JROTC drill team recently swept an Alabama drill meet, taking home eight first-place awards and two second-place finishes from the Hazel Green, Alabama, competition on Saturday, Dec. 1.
This is the second year in a row that the Marine Corps cadets of Tullahoma High School have taken top honors at the Hazel Green drill meet, according to Oliver. It is also a point of pride for the students as individuals.
Among the many accolades the drill team members brought home to Tennessee were the first place overall, first place armed overall and first place unarmed overall for their drill sequence.
Each drill team, according to Oliver, can test their mettle in both armed and unarmed competitions, with the armed events consisting of drill maneuvers performed while holding rifles.
The THS JROTC program took home three first-place trophies and one second-place prize in armed competition, including first place armed overall, second place armed platoon, first place armed squad and first place exhibition armed.
In the unarmed competitions, the cadets took home another three first-place and one second-place trophies, including first place unarmed overall, second place unarmed squad, first place unarmed platoon and first place exhibition unarmed.
According to Oliver, practice for the competition took place over all of last week, with the cadets routinely coming in at 6:30 a.m. to work on their drill in the school gym. There were even afternoon practices, making for several 10.5-hour days prior to the Saturday competition.
For Oliver, this has been a four-year pursuit in the making. She started in the JROTC program at THS during her freshman year and instantly took a liking for the drill team.
All freshmen cadets are exposed to drill team, she said, and those who are interested are encouraged to learn the basics from upperclassmen cadets and Sgt. Maj. Richard Ramirez, who has extensive experience with Marine Corps drill.
“[He] was at Parris Island [South Carolina] and taught drill,” Oliver said. “He passionately loves drill.”
That passion makes for the best instruction for the Tullahoma cadets, she said.
“We’re very, very lucky to have sergeant major,” Oliver added. “The colonel himself always says we have a golden nugget [in Ramirez].”
Ramirez makes sure all the drill team members learn how to properly execute drill moves and hold rifles, which helps the cadets earn points at drill meets like the one in Hazel Green.
“It’s regulation, so it goes by our Marine Corps drill handbook, and we have to abide by their guidelines for specific moves and what we can and cannot do,” Oliver said.
Sweeping the Hazel Green competition for the second year in a row was a point of pride for Oliver, who said the competition is a great one to attend.
“It is very fair and balanced,” Oliver said of the competition.
This isn’t the only drill meet the cadets will tackle, she said. The drill team typically takes part in three to four competitions a year, with one being an annual trip to Nashville in April to compete at the Vanderbilt University JROTC Drill Meet.
The drill team will also head down to Georgia to compete in a regional drill meet with only Marine Corps JROTC programs.
If the cadets win that drill meet, Oliver said, the Nashville trip will be skipped in favor of a trip to Quantico, Virginia, to compete against more MCJROTC programs.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com