U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Antonio Shaw recalls his high school years at IDEA Public Charter School in Washington, District of Columbia. In addition to academics, it was a place that introduced him to drill competitions.
“I was a JROTC cadet who was motivated to be a better leader and opportunities to show it,” 1st Sgt. Shaw said. “I remember the competitions and the discipline and motivation that goes into them.”
On Jan. 27 he served as a head judge for the 2024 JROTC “Best of the Best” Drill Competition at the D.C. Armory. JROTC teams from a dozen D.C. metropolitan area schools competed in the regional qualifier. The event affords the D.C. National Guard an opportunity to fulfill its role as citizen soldiers by supporting area youth.
“This competition is designed to showcase cadets’ leadership skills, attention to detail, teamwork and mission accomplishment,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Federico Boyce, JROTC Operations and Training, D.C. Public Schools. “These are qualities that will serve them well in any career field.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Boyce served active duty for 32 years and argues JROTC programs jump start youth to invest in goals bigger than themselves with integrity and accountability.
“They’re more engaged in civic and social concerns in the community, government, and society,” he said.
Jewel Douglass, Youth & Family Programs specialist, DC Government Operations–DC National Guard adds JROTC fulfills multiple capacities.
“It affords young people an opportunity to understand the customs and courtesies of the military, and exposes them to various career paths,” she said. “It also helps with building self-confidence, discipline, and leadership within students. This is a beneficial for their communities, schools, the military, and society at large.”
The competition is a collaboration between D.C. Public Schools, D.C. Government Operations, and the D.C. National Guard. Jewell who served 20 years active duty recognizes the benefits of rivalry and perseverance.
“Become a better version of yourself, strengthen your ability to effectively engage and work with people from different backgrounds,” she said. “My hope for the region's JROTC cadets in terms of their future is that they embrace the challenges of life and realize that these challenges only aid you in becoming all you were destined to be.”
“It takes a village to raise our teens, and we want to support them in programs such as this to enable them to turn their dreams into reality," added Marcus L. Hunt, Director of the District of Columbia Operations, D.C. National Guard.
The mission of the JROTC “Best of the Best” Drill Competition is to build esprit de corps and provide cadets the opportunity to qualify to compete at the national level.
“They don’t really know whose watching them when they’re at school who they’re inspiring,” said Brig. Gen. Leland D. Blanchard II, commander, D.C. National Guard Land Component Command (LCC). “They’re changing lives by being leaders, wearing the uniform, and doing what’s right every day.”
Winners in each respective category received trophies, medals and one cadet earned top Drill and Ceremonies individual.
“A sense of accomplishment, bragging rights for one year along with some hardware to display at their school,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Boyce. “My hope is for the cadets to continue to take everything they’ve learned and apply the leadership skills, teamwork and disciple to be better citizens in their community, private sector or any of the uniformed services.”
Competition winners in each respective division are as follows:
1: South Lakes High School
2: Colonial Forge High School
3: Jackson Reed High School
1: Alexandria City High School
2: Jackson Reed High School
3: Woodbridge High School
1: Ron Brown High School
2: Young Marines
3: South Lakes High School