Norwich’s Drill Team takes 2nd place

Norwich University’s Drill Company competed at the Cornell University Invitational Drill Competition on Nov. 17, and after long months of preparation, did well in the event.

“The upperclassmen team started practicing the moment we stepped on campus, way back in August.” said Robert Kelley, 22, a senior in criminal justice from Clarksville, Tenn. “We have practice two hours every day, including weekends, and we ramped it up to three or four hours.”

NU Drill Team

NU cadets won the first place trophy for dual exhibition.
Photo: Matt Johnson

This fall semester, the Drill Company was a staple feature at the north end of the Upper Parade Ground, practicing diligently for this competition.

In the end, all of the hard work and dedication on the part of the cadets and the advisor earned the drill team second place overall in the regional meet, consisting of 16 schools, at Cornell University, and first place over all for the squad drill competition.

There are many different parts to the competition, all of which require practice and discipline, said Geraldo Mercado, who works closely with Drill Company as its advisor and is a prior drill instructor in the Marine Corps.

“Being a drill instructor in the Marine Corps, it helped in knowing what to look for,” Mercado said. “They have inspections, they have to make up the drill routine for the exhibition, and there is competition for squad, squad drill, platoon drill, color guard, exhibition, and a two-man exhibition.”

Mercado spent three years of his military career as a drill instructor, helping him with the skills and background to take on advising the NU drill team.

One of the tasks of being on the drill team and part of the color guard is making sure the equipment is functional.

“It‘s a lot of equipment maintenance, making sure that our gear is properly fitting and able to hold up while we are performing,” said Melissa Grube, 20, a junior in biology from Allentown Penn. “Three other girls and I in the color guard have just been practicing our specific moves for the performance.”

Practicing takes a lot of work. It is both time-consuming, physically and mentally draining, according to the cadets on the team.

“The routine is 10 to 15 minutes long, the best way to describe it, it is like trying to run through a 10 to 15 minute consistent P90X exercise with a ten-pound weight, and it’s done all through memory,” said Rob Morris, 21, a senior in the criminal justice program from Annapolis, Md. “It sucks going through the routine, at the end of every practice, your shoulders are on fire, no matter how long you have been practicing, your shoulders burn at the end of it.”

“Thinking through the whole thing, muscle memory is really big, but the routine is so long it’s not something you can zone out and go through the motions for,” Morris said. “The times that I mess up, it’s when I’m practicing and a team will walk by, and I will see a friend on the team and then I’ll think about something other than the routine that we’re doing. You always have to think about what is coming next. If you zone out, you’ll mess up.”

The motivation behind competing, said Mercado, is watching the cadets progress and improve as they go from competition to competition.

Drill Company represents Norwich University well as professionals and future leaders, Mercado said. “I’m proud of the students that come here, and what they do, of course I maintain them having tact and professionalism. It’s a sight to see when they are out on their own doing this.”

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