Naval ROTC takes first in drill team competition

Rani Gupta

Competing against prestigious military academies from across the country, Northwestern’s Naval ROTC drill team won first place this weekend in the nation’s largest drill meet.

Twenty midshipmen from NU’s Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps traveled to New Orleans to compete in the Mardi Gras Drill Meet, which took place Friday at Tulane University.

In the basic squad drill competition, NU placed first among about 35 teams, including The Citadel, a South Carolina military academy.

“It was a little intimidating knowing that these were academies and military schools that practice every day, ” said Autumn Swinford, a Weinberg freshman and member of the winning squad.

To prepare for the competition, the NU drill team practiced Mondays and Wednesdays for about two hours, starting at 5:45 a.m.

“Everyone was just so amazed and happy that we came away victorious,” squad leader and Weinberg junior Mindy Schon said.

Considering the competition and the fact that NU’s drill team hadn’t participated in an event this large since 1997, the win came as a pleasant surprise to the team.

“I was hoping to come away in the top 10, but the fact that we got first was a good birthday present for me, for sure,” said Schon, whose birthday was Monday.

In the meet, which included a squad competition and a platoon event, students had to march in uniform and execute specific rifle movements in unison with other squad members.

The squad competition involves one squad made up of a unit leader and seven people, while the platoon event involves a unit leader and three squads of five people each.

The NU team is still awaiting its exact ranking in the platoon competition, though it did not place in the top three.

“It was a little disappointing, but we did the best job we could,” platoon leader and Weinberg junior Kyle Harken said. “But the squad’s win is an accomplishment for the drill team as a whole.”

The NU drill team usually competes in smaller competitions against fewer than 10 teams, Schon said.

The team competed in one other meet this fall against Big Ten teams and placed second in both the squad and platoon events.

The drill team is mandatory for Naval ROTC freshmen during Fall Quarter but voluntary after that, a fact that Schon said illustrated the dedication of the team members.

Schon said the squad’s improved ability this year stemmed from both the “senior leadership” and the “motivation and dedication showed by underclassmen.”

“(The underclassmen) have put in more time and effort than maybe we have in past years,” she said.