Those words are great to hear and sometimes even better to yell. I knew the feeling of “winning” at drill meets throughout my four years of high school AFJROTC; my team swept every meet and so did I as the team’s commander for my last two years. It was hard work, fun and I learned quite a bit. But what did we really “win”?
I went to Agua Fria Union High School in Avondale, AZ (’79-’83) and our most intense rival school was a MCJROTC unit from Tolleson High School. Our unarmed teams were always neck-and-neck. It was a good rivalry and kept us on our toes the whole school year. The other schools in the Phoenix and surrounding areas attended most of the same meets that we did. The only school to come close was our rival that I mentioned above, the other schools always came in behind us. Our instructors (CMSgt Broomhead- not making that up- and Lt Col Lorenz) always had some great music waiting for us on the bus ride home and we would sing/yell the words to We are the Champions by Queen and Celebration by Kool and the Gang.
Then we went to the Southern California Drill Meet and had an attitude adjustment. I think we took home a third place trophy in one of the phases of the competition. We left dejected, but guess what our Chief did? He had the same music waiting for us on the bus? “But, we were ‘losers'”, we thought. We were never “losers” in the sense that the world sees it. We practiced for two hours every day after school all through the school year and even had some Saturday practices thrown in. When we went to SCIDM, we entered a competitive area to which we had not been exposed and we learned great lessons from that experience and applied those lessons to our training so that we could be a better team than before.
The same goes for you and your team. I am very happy for teams and cadets that post pictures on Twitter and Instagram showing off their trophies. The same goes for the teams that post pictures after a competition without a single trophy, but smiles all round. You did it, you both “won”! Kudos to you!
Picture from Twitter
Now let me explain how to put things into perspective.
The world is all about “winners”. Ricky Bobby’s father said, “You’re either first or you’re last”, as he drove away in that silly movie Taladega Nights. But later on, he made the comment that he had been wrong in his thinking. Now, I’m not suggesting taking meaningful life lessons from every movie that you can watch, but sometimes there are very pertinent ideas that can come across. Sometimes. But his second statement later on in the movie was absolutely right on the mark of truth: there is no such thing as, “first or last”. Competition is great and it is meant to, as I wrote earlier, keep you on your toes.
You are meant to keep training, keep studying and be the best that you can be. THAT is winning. Getting up early to exercise and get in some extra practice. THAT is winning. Paying attention when you are practicing regulation drill for the millionth time. THAT is winning. Not losing your cool when training new cadets who just can’t seem to figure out that you pivot on the left foot for a right flank. THAT is winning. Not getting angry, not throwing your rifle when you still can’t get that Hawaiian Punch. THAT is winning. Knowing that you did your very best in a performance and, “leaving it all on the drill deck”. THAT is winning.
You don’t need a trophy or ribbon to know that you are already a winner when you are going that extra mile and if that is all you are going for, then there is something missing in your approach to the what the World Drill Association calls, the Sport of Military Drill.
Don’t fall into the trap that society tells you: “You’re either first, or last.” It’s a lie. Everyday accomplishments make you a “winner”.
Now, go practice.