More than 400 contenders representing 14 Mississippi high schools showed their mettle at the Mid-South Region Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) drill meet held on The University of Mississippi campus last February.
The meet was hosted by the staff, midshipmen and mariners of the UM NROTC, with the top three schools at the meet advancing to the national level of the competition.
The daylong event was organized by Kyle Smith, an engineering major and junior midshipman from Pascagoula.
“This was a major responsibility for me,” Smith said. “I handled the planning, scheduling and execution of all facets of the drill meet. Many of the contenders never observed a drill meet. They definitely benefited from witnessing such an activity, even at the JROTC level.”
Comprising several different scoring brackets, the event included everything from an academic test on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps history and tradition to an armed platoon drill. The judges were the midshipmen of the UM NROTC, who gained experience during their participation at a recent Tulane drill meet.
While drilling with obsolete rifles may seem outdated or irrelevant to military service, the practice serves a purpose, Smith said.
“To be considered for officer candidacy in all branches of military service, cadets must display outstanding levels of professionalism, physical fitness and academic aptitude. Drill meets are a way for a school or unit to represent these qualities individually and collectively,” he said.
“Junior ROTC builds character at the high-school level,” said Maj. Mark Davis, instructor in naval science. “JROTC is about preparing high-school students to be responsible citizens. It’s a role we take seriously in our UM ROTC program.”