CMSAF drills down at National High School Championships

  • Published
  • By R. Wayne Barron, HQ Air Force Junior ROTC Leadership Development Program Manager

The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass was on-hand at the 2023 National High School Drill Team Championships, aka. The Nationals, May 6 in Daytona Beach, FL.

The two-day event at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach was packed with activities and competitions. Air Force Junior ROTC cadets competed with 131 teams to determine who would be named the 2023 National Champion Armed, Unarmed, and Color Guard teams.

What an amazing weekend!

Saturday morning brought Chief Bass to The Nationals. The Chief got a chance to see firsthand the dedication and commitment to excellence from the Air Force Junior ROTC cadets. Bass took the time to meet all the AFJROTC team members, their parents and instructors. She watched in amazement the exemplary military bearing of the cadets while they were grilled by the judges during inspection.

“I couldn't have been more inspired by the dedication and professionalism of these cadets," said Bass. "The work JROTC is doing is essential to building great citizens who may choose to continue their path of service as members of our military. I would be honored to serve alongside these young men and women who are already showing a strong commitment to excellence."

After watching the ‘Night Hawks’ from Brandies High School in San Antonio do an armed inspection she wanted to meet the team. She told them, “That was intense and incredible!”

Cadet Abbit, the team’s commander, was then recognized by Bass with her CMSAF coin! Bass visited several other teams and cadets and noted “…the discipline and professionalism of our Air Force Junior ROTC cadets,” and stated she “… appreciates the work being done at JROTC building strong citizens!”

The weekend’s activities culminated with the Awards Ceremony held on Sunday evening. For it the Ocean Center transformed into a first-class awards venue with a backdrop of 55 towering trophies.

To open the awards ceremony, the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard from Washington, D.C., demonstrated perfect-skill and death-defying maneuvers. You could hear the gasps, ooohs and ahhhs, from an audience that could appreciate the dedication and skill on display.

This was a special treat to begin the night and as the announcer said, “The louder your cheer, the harder the drill team members will go.” His message was met with a deafening roar of approval and the Air Force Honor Guard executed their routine to perfection, leaving 2,500 cadets, parents and instructors wanting more.

The ‘Blue Knights from Bob Jones High School, Madison, AL, took home the Spirit Award Banner. The Spirit Award is an annual rotating award that recognizes the single Masters Level drill team that best glorifies their unit, their service, JROTC in general and most importantly, the National High School Drill Team Championship. The selection for this award is a positive reflection of so many things, both on and off the drill floor, through their conduct, words and deeds.

The ‘Warhawks’ from Waller High School, Waller, Texas, took home top honors in the Division 2-Armed Championship. Team Commander Cadet Kyle Sanders said, “I am so proud of this team and everything we accomplished this year. It’s so great knowing that all the hard work finally paid off. Congratulations to the Phantoms [Waller’s Unarmed drill team] as well. Their past success has always been a motivator of our drill team. We are #1 … We are Waller!”

The moment had arrived. Who would be crowned the Masters Level National Champions?

Brandies High School’s ‘Night Hawks’ armed drill team finished as the national runner up in the Armed Masters Division. This is the second time in the past six years the Night Hawks have been runners up. The teams were only 100 points out of 6,000 possible points for the top spot.

Brandies’ ‘Blue Aces’ unarmed drill team won their 5th consecutive Unarmed National Championship in the Masters division. The Blue Aces are on a roll that has never been seen before at The Nationals, they are six-time national champions with five of those championships being consecutive.

It was an amazing weekend with the CMSAF visit, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard team demonstration, and Air Force JROTC cadets bringing home the top awards from the evening.  What more could you ask for at the 41st All-Service National High School Drill Team Competition.  Cadets are already practicing for next year’s competition.