Four area high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps platoons gathered in the Seckman Senior High School gym April 16 as a U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon squad prepared for its exhibition performance. The students had just finished a drill competition, hosted by Recruiting Station St. Louis and judged by SDP Marines, and were awaiting the announcement of the competition winner following the SDP performance.
“We’re walking home with first place,” said Cadet Chris Vaughan, platoon commander of Pacific High School Marine Corps JROTC. “Might as well just put our name on the plaque. I could hear the snap and pop of the weapons. I saw the look on my cadets’ faces. I just felt really proud to be part of the team and to be friends with all those guys.”
In a competition hosted by Marines, many participants expected the Marine Corps JROTC platoon to win over the two Army and one Air Force platoons. Each platoon did a sequence of drill movements prescribed to them by the event organizers before the competition, and it would come down to which team executed their movements better.
“When we first started marching, I forgot my commands and then it clicked in my head and I just remembered,” said Cadet Charles Cormier, platoon commander for Sumner High School Army JROTC. “I think we did good, mostly. I think we got all our commands. Everybody stayed on step. Everybody did their precise movements and everything.”
Members of his platoon were concerned. They approached the retired military veterans who lead them wanting to do their routine again. “And our drill sergeants were like, ‘What’s the point, you can’t perfect perfection,’” Cormier said. “They just lightened our mood up.”
After an awe-inspiring SDP performance, which received a standing ovation, the time came to announce the competition winners. Each platoon stood in formations surrounding center court. A Marine judge first announced that Pacific High School won second place.
“When I saw they took second, I just froze up and I was looking around,” Cormier said.
With the Marine JROTC platoon out of the running for first, anticipations were high, as Sumner High School was announced as the winner.
“When they said Sumner High School, I just,” Cormier hesitated. “And then I just clicked back in, turned around and gave (my platoon) their orders.”
His platoon began to cheer and clap. He did an about-face and put them at attention before he stepped up to accept the award.
Marine 1st Sgt. Ramone Nash, first sergeant of Headquarters and Services Company, Marine Barracks Washington, was the chief grader of the competition. Nash was impressed by Sumner High School. He saw the control the commander had over his platoon, the precision of their drill and the overall presence they displayed.
“Being a Marine first sergeant, it’s painful to see that your unit could come in second,” Nash said. “But I’m truly a believer that winning is not what it’s all about. It’s not about being the first place winner all the time. It’s about what that team gained. I think every team gained something from this competition.”