Drill meet held at UK for first time in four years

By Jerry Seale

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Uniformity and precision were the focuses of an event that brought more than 300 high school students in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program to campus for the first time in four years.

The students showcased their skills in marching, rifle routines and other events during the return of the Pershing Rifles Drill Meet Saturday.

“From the planning process to today, everything has gone very well. It’s proof that the time spent over the last four years has really paid off,” said Capt. Brian C. Smith, assistant professor of military science at UK.

Some schools initially scheduled to compete at the meet were unable to, but Smith said there were still eight schools represented by a total of 317 high school students involved in JROTC.

“It’s an excellent, large scale event, and that number doesn’t even factor in all those in UK ROTC, parents and others who volunteered to help. We had a lot of volunteers who helped to make this a success, especially from the Wildcat Battalion,” he said.

UK ROTC cadet Austin Rains was among the UK students who helped put on the event, which took place in the Student Center Grand Ballroom, Alumni Gym and Buell Armory.

“With over three hundred students coming from within the state, this is huge for UK, and it’s a good chance for UK to recruit for ROTC,” said Rains, a business management junior. “There’s no better way, and no better place to do it.”

The JROTC students participated in multiple competitions throughout the day, including platoon and squad exhibition, color guard, and squad and individual exhibition. The vast majority of the judging for these events was based heavily on the quality and consistency among the members of the squads and platoons.

“What we’re looking for is uniformity. We want to make sure everyone does the same thing at the same time. It’s all right out of the field manual,” said Lt. Ryan Matousek, a history sophomore.

Synchronizing the groups of students in the events can be difficult.

“The hardest part is getting everyone to do what they’re supposed to at the same time,” said Matthew Leyva, a Seneca High School freshman in the JROTC program. “The slightest ripple is really noticeable.”

Leyva said the discipline and benefits that come with this kind of training provide “the best sort of way for a person to learn about leadership.”

The parents of many of the JROTC watched the events.

“It gives me honor and pride to know that he chose to be part of something like this,” said Tread Ellis, an Iraq veteran and stepfather to one of the JROTC students. “It gives me a great sense of joy knowing that he wants to do something for his country,”