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Vanderbilt University NROTC Hosts NJROTC/MCJROTC Drill Meet

23 April 2019

From Scott A. Thornbloom

The Vanderbilt University Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) hosted an Athletic Competition and Drill Meet Championship for Navy and Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC/MCJROTC) units from three states, April 13.

The Vanderbilt University Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) hosted an Athletic Competition and Drill Meet Championship for Navy and Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC/MCJROTC) units from three states, April 13.

More than 250 cadets from seven high schools in Tennessee (Anderson County, Columbia Central, Cocke County, Galatin, Hendersonville, Mt. Juliet and Tullahoma), two schools from Kentucky (Greenwood and Jeffersontown) and one unit from Arkansas (Alma) competed in five drill events, a Knockout competition and a grueling relay race that included racing 100-yards carrying two ammo cans and an out-and-back 50-yard buddy drag and 50-yard fireman’s carry. The events were held in the university’s Recreation and Wellness Center basketball courts and indoor artificial turf football field.

“This competition has been happening off and on for 28 years,” said Capt. Donald May, professor of Naval Science and commanding officer of the Vanderbilt NROTC unit. “I hope we were able to inspire these cadets for what they can achieve. They went through the mechanics and drill and show off what they have learned and know. But we hope by bringing them to Vanderbilt and into our Rec Center, that is eye-watering phenomenal, we can inspire them to reach beyond what they think they can accomplish now to something even higher.”

The Vanderbilt NROTC unit set up two drill decks on the basketball courts for Armed Exhibition and a Personnel Inspection. Three drill decks were set up on the turf field for Armed Basic, Color Guard and Unarmed Basic. An unarmed knockout competition was held after the drill events where cadets attempted to perform facing maneuvers without making a mistake. The last mistake-free cadet standing is the winner of the competition. This year Cadet Senior Chief Say Htoo, 15, and a sophomore at Greenwood High School, from Bowling Green, Kentucky, committed zero mistakes to be crowned the Knockout Champ.

“We started to plan for this, months ago,” said Midshipman 3rd Class Arturo Herrera, 19, from Reading, Pennsylvania, and one of the event coordinators. “There was a lot of coordination and working with the Rec Center. We have all the midshipmen in the entire battalion involved in this event. They were there on game day and provided excellent service and support for the cadets, their staffs and their family members that came to the event.”   

Several of Vanderbilt’s NROTC midshipmen, officer candidates and MECEPs (Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program) scored and judged each NJROTC unit and each competition. Each contest involved military drill maneuvers. Armed Exhibition requires more skills using their rifles in choreographed flips, twirls and facing movements. The midshipmen judged each JROTC unit using a point system.

Cocke County Navy JROTC finished with an impressive 2,249 points to be named overall champion. Tullahoma Marine Corps JROTC finished in second place (2,186), and Hendersonville MCJROTC came in third (2, 142). Jeffersontown MCJROTC (2,119) was fourth and Anderson County NJROTC finished in the top five with 2,107. Alma NROTC (2,097), Gallatin NJROTC (1,908), Mt. Juliet MCJROTC (1,881), Columbia Central NJROTC (1,855) and Greenwood (1,739) rounded out the scoring.

“This event and win means a lot to us, because it’s our last drill meet of the year,” said Cocke County NJROTC Cadet Cmdr. David Griffin, 18, a senior and the battalion cadet commander. “To finish the year strong feels really good. We didn’t go to Nationals (Navy National Academics, Athletics & Drill Championship at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, April 5-6) this year. Overall this year has been very successful. I was very happy with how the teams performed and how the battalion performed in general in supporting the drill teams.”

The athletic competition, which didn’t count in the overall scoring and was held for unit pride to allow the scores to be totaled, was held on the indoor football field.

“We have been very lucky to use the Recreation Center,” said May. “The university has been very supportive over the years.”

Retired U. S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer 4 David McCuistion, Cocke County NJROTC Navy Science Instructor (NSI), said there is a winning expectation at Cocke County.

“The kids work hard to get here and it really comes from the heart. It’s all about them doing better and excelling and they did it.”

Retired U. S. Navy Chief Information Systems Technician Raymond Rodriguez, NSI at Cocke County, called the win a testament to the work the cadets put in each year. He said the unit didn’t attend Navy Nationals this year or would be attending the Military JROTC Nationals in Daytona, Florida, in May due to scheduling problems. He called the Vanderbilt Drill Meet their big win for the year.

“This feels great,” Rodriguez said. “They really worked hard. The cadets make this program. They are the ones that make it a success. Without that hard work, we wouldn’t be here where we are right now taking first place again for a second year in a row.”

According to Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. William Michener, the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor (AMOI) for the Vanderbilt NROTC unit, all of the more than 35 midshipmen in the unit participated in some way or another in the drill meet. He said coordinating and hosting the event gives the midshipmen leadership experience.

“It can be organized chaos at times but it also allows the midshipmen to take the lead in the planning and then running of the meet,” Michener said. “I hope the JROTC cadets were able to get a glimpse into the Vanderbilt NROTC and see the quality of midshipmen we have here and hopefully they left with a good outlook on what NROTC looks like in a college environment.”

The former battalion commander of the Vanderbilt NROTC unit, Midshipman 1st Class Pravnar Kumar, 21, from Austin, Texas, who will be commissioned to a Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant in May, thought the meet went outstanding.

“I think there are a couple of things that we can do better. I got no doubt the younger midshipmen will make this an even better event in the future,” Kumar said. “Some very good teams came here this year and we’re lucky as midshipmen to get this opportunity to work on leadership skills. It’s great to see it finish up with this many smiles on everyone’s faces.”

The Vanderbilt University NROTC midshipmen that participated in this year’s drill meet are among more than 4,000 students enrolled in the NROTC program at colleges and universities throughout the country.

The NROTC program was established to develop midshipmen mentally, morally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty and loyalty. The program also develops midshipmen with the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment in order to commission college graduates as naval officers who possess a basic professional background, are motivated toward careers in the naval service, and have a potential for future development in mind and character so as to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.

For more information about NROTC, visit

JROTC is a citizenship development program that instills in high school students the value of citizenship and service to the United States.

The Navy JROTC program was established by Public Law in 1964 which may be found in Title 10, U.S. Code, Chapter 102. The program is conducted at accredited secondary schools throughout the nation, and taught by instructors who are retired Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard officers and enlisted personnel. The NJROTC accredited curriculum emphasizes citizenship and leadership development, as well as our maritime heritage, the significance of sea power, and naval topics such as the fundamentals of naval operations, seamanship, navigation and meteorology. Classroom instruction is augmented throughout the year by extra-curricular activities of community service, academic, athletic, drill and orienteering competitions, field meets, flights, visits to naval or other activities, marksmanship sports training, and physical fitness training. Electronic classroom equipment, textbooks, uniforms, educational training aids, travel allowance, and a cost-share of instructors' salaries are provided by the Navy.

For more information about NJROTC, visit

NROTC and NJROTC are supported by Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), and his NSTC staff at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. NSTC supports 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy, as well as the Navy’s Citizenship Development program. This includes the NROTC units at more than 160 colleges and universities; Officer Training Command (OTC) on Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island; Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp, at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois; and Navy JROTC/Navy National Defense Cadet Corps units at more than 600 high schools worldwide.


For more information about NSTC, visit

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