JROTC brings home national title

Gloucester+MCJROTC+team+pose+for+a+photo+in+Irving%2C+Texas.
Gloucester MCJROTC team pose for a photo in Irving, Texas.

Gloucester MCJROTC team pose for a photo in Irving, Texas.

Maiara Oliveria

Maiara Oliveria

Gloucester MCJROTC team pose for a photo in Irving, Texas.

CAROLINE ENOS, Staff Writer, Editor

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In a grand finish to the season, Gloucester’s JROTC Drill Team topped 15 other schools from around the country, triumphed over long time rivals, and proved its potential as a young and eager team over the weekend at the United States Marine Corps JROTC National Championship in Irving, Texas.

“We practiced and practiced and practiced and we looked so good,” said Cadet Sergeant Liz Schuster.

The team won first place in Unarmed Exhibition in a three-way tie with Lynn English and Reading High School (PA), and third place in Unarmed Regulation. Cadet Captain Soo Ae Ono also received an individual perfect score during Gloucester’s Color Guard routine and was named first place Color Guard Commander at the competition. 

“The competition went better than anticipated,” said Master Sergeant Carcel Dubose. “We went down there hoping to close the gap on our rivals Lynn English, who are the measuring stick for how well we do because they are always good. We tied them in Unarmed Exhibition and placed slightly above them in Unarmed Regulation, but above them nonetheless.”

The team had struggled to find its groove throughout the season, and only won once at a Reading, Pennsylvania meet in December, where they had to win first place in order to secure a free trip to Nationals.

But as Gloucester’s Drill Team has shown time and time again, its best victories often come out of the most pressure.

“I was worried having only 40 minutes of practice every day wouldn’t be enough,” said Ono, who is also the Unarmed Commander. “But it turned out that the effort and motivation we put in really paid off.”

This was the first drill season many of the Unarmed team members participated in, and only two seniors will be graduating from it this year.

“This season, because we have a fairly new team made up mostly of underclassmen, let us find ourselves as a team,” said Dubose.

Gloucester competed at Nationals last year in Orlando, Florida, coming home with many titles but not a first place win. 

“There was a lot more to see there, like Universal and Disney,” said Dubose. “But this competition was much more rewarding because we won, and our archrivals, who were our kryptonite, are no longer our kryptonite.”

Gloucester’s JROTC overcame several obstacles to win at this year’s competition, including key team members getting sick.

“Schuster got really sick during the trip, but she didn’t let it stop her from doing her best,” said Ono. “We placed her in Unarmed Exhibition a few days before competition, and she didn’t hesitate even though she wasn’t as acquainted with the routine as the rest of us.”

Along with hard work and determination, the team was held together by its strong sense of community and invaluable support system.

“Without the chaperones and the instructors, we wouldn’t be where we are,” said Schuster. “We wouldn’t have gotten close. We wouldn’t have beaten our biggest rival Lynn English, we wouldn’t have the funds to go, and we wouldn’t have the motivation. I give 98% of the credit to them.”

The trip allowed Gloucester’s JROTC to show its strengths while providing unique life experiences for many of the cadets.

“For some kids, it was their first time on an airplane,” said Dubose. “Others just don’t get across the bridge that much. If not for this program, some of the kids would never get to go to Texas.”

The win and lasting memories made by the team also serves as a happy send-off for the senior cadets who attended.

“This trip gave the team the chance to come together again before we said farewell to our seniors, Malia Hartwell, Caleb Hammett, Yeremi Martinez, Thiago DaSilva, Mayra Oliveira, and Victoria DeSouza Pinto,” said Ono.

Gloucester’s Drill Team has once again shown the strength of GHS’s JROTC program. For Ono, Schuster, and their teammates, this year’s National Championship has helped boost their motivation leading into next year’s season, and is a definitive highlight of their high school careers.

“I’m just so proud,” said Schuster.

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