Numbers and attendance. It’s nothing new to JROTC or some other high school activities. However, when it happens during your four years of school, it seems like a brand new problem has popped up. Over the years, I have received pleas from cadets who so badly want to march on their school’s drill team, but cannot seem to generate enough interest in the program among other cadets.
I received two messages within two days last week, one through Instagram and one through Kik, about drill team practice attendance numbers dropping.
I posted a question on Instagram and Facebook and received some interesting replies like these:
- More community service hours opportunities are given in reward.
- I started with a squad and did an exhibition routine with them and presented it to my Battalion. After they saw the things that we could do, it encouraged them to join.
- I think drill teams should do more small performances in middle schools ms elementary schools. They should do basic stuff within the routine but still look super sharp and cool. They should also wear a nice beat uniform. Appearance attracts also
There are lean years where the extra-curricular activities in JROTC are scraping to get by and then there will be several years of more than enough cadets to fill all of the positions. Many schools experience this phenomenon almost cyclically.
I began to see a pattern, though, with the complaints of instructors not being fully involved tying in with poor attendance at drill team or color guard practice. For those who said their numbers were dropping, I asked if the instructors were involved and received these comments:
- Not really. [Drill team is] mostly cadet run. It just seems commitment with the new cadets and seniors is just non existent.
- Our instructors are not really there when we are training. They’re never there during drill. They do however get involved in certain functions, but I don’t really see them as being heavily involved, which is what we really need.
Lack of instructor involvement is an issue that needs to be addressed. But, here is what I see as a possible culprit to this issue: lack of drill and ceremonies awareness. When it comes to senior NCOs and CPOs, they are more management than anything else. While some do have experience with being a Drill Instructor, many do not and, even so, competitive military drill is very different when it comes to advanced training requirements. JROTC instructors who do not have drill experience are more likely to want to stay away from the drill pad when it comes to a drill team because of a lack of knowledge in this area. Something that I truly hope to change through my books and educational clinics.
Relevant articles to this issue:
I’ve written articles with suggestions on how to try to conquer this problem (listed above), but here I offer another, very different, suggestion: a community drill team and/or color team (see why I put “team” there instead of “guard,” here). Even partnering with a local Civil Air Patrol, Sea Cadet or Young Marine organization is an option.
The Community Drill Team
Here is a possible situation: You have a certain number of high schools in your area with maybe 5 or 6 cadets who are really interested in forming a team, not enough members for a team from that school, but pool those members into one team and you have a district or community team ready to march in competitions and parades.
There are several issues that come to mind from the beginning:
- Where to hold practice?
Rotate between schools or hold practice in a central location.
- How to get to practice?
Car pool to the central location
- If different services, what manual to follow?
The senior service takes precedent in this order: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force & Coast Guard
- What uniform?
Having a squad of each service would work well. It’s different, but then so is this whole situation.
- Who is in charge, instructor-wise?
This could rotate on a weekly basis.
- Who is in charge, cadet-wise?
As with the service honor guards, rank will always be respected, but the most competent of the members, regardless of rank, should be in charge. Is there more than one cadet who could lead well? Then have different formation commanders for phase of the competition: exhibition, regulation and inspection.
There are probably more questions to answer based on your unique situation, but I think you get the idea.
Could this work? I believe so, with patience and a willingness to work together, all hurdles can be surmounted.