Amid pandemic AFROTC Det holds virtual JROTC drill competition

  • Published
  • By Christian P. Hodge
  • HQ AFJROTC Public Affairs

Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 592 at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte held their annual 49er Drill Competition virtually for the first time November 7. 

With the onset of COVID-19, it was clear that an in-person competition would be unsafe.  Focusing on the primary goal of ROTC to make exceptional officers, Det. 592 saw COVID safety precautions not as a barrier, but as an opportunity to mentor future second lieutenants to see opportunity in the face of change.      

Executing their annual drill competition provided an outstanding opportunity to strengthen bonds between Junior AFROTC and Senior AFROTC and practice the critical leadership skills that make outstanding citizens and military officers.   

“We tried challenging every assumption we had about hosting a traditional drill competition and the idea of needing to set a hard date to hold the event was one,” said Maj. Dustin Puett, Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies, AFROTC Detachment 592, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “After some discussion and feedback from schools interested in competing, we decided that the detachments would have the week prior to the submission date to record their events.”  

This and other adjustments allowed Junior ROTC units who were under COVID restrictions to meet outside of school hours still and still have the ability to compete, he said.  

The invitation was sent to 3,218 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine JROTC units worldwide. Participating schools were in states as far away as Pennsylvania, Nevada and Texas and comprised Navy and Marine JROTC units in addition to Air Force ones.   

Schools with JROTC units that participated in the competition through video submissions included: Byron P. Steele High School, Cibolo, Texas; Riverview High School, Riverview, Florida; Clover High School, Clover, S.C.; Cane Bay High School, Summerville, S.C.; Carson High School, Carson, N.; Central High School, Brooksville, Florida; Crest High School, Shelby, N.C.; James F. Byrnes High School, Duncan, S.C.; McDowell Intermediate High School, Erie, PA; Randolph Macon Academy, Front Royal, VA; and West Florence High School, Florence, S.C. 

The competition’s regulation events included Color Guard, Individual Armed, Individual Unarmed, Element Armed, Element Unarmed, Element Unarmed 1st year, Flight Armed and Flight Unarmed. The competition’s exhibition events included Individual Armed, Element Armed, Element Unarmed, Flight Armed and Flight Unarmed. 

Clover High School’s AFJROTC unit, from Clover, S.C., won the competition.  

“This was definitely a team effort from all of our cadets at AFROTC Det 592,” said Maj. Puett. “Cadet Carson Labo led the effort and was assisted by Cadet Chase Boettcher, Cadet Kylie Zelesnik, and Cadet Brian Halliburton.” These AS300 and AS400 cadets represent upperclassmen in the AFROTC program at UNC-Charlotte. 

The entire event was about proving that both the ROTC and JROTC cadets could challenge the assumptions and ideas of what is possible, according to the Major.  The idea that just because things are different and we are in a challenging environment does not mean we should stop trying to be successful, he said. 

Moreover, this really boils down to ROTC and JROTC working together at a grassroots level and building upon a continued foundation of teamwork.    

“This was just a great initiative on the part of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and their Air Force ROTC Cadet Corps!” said Scotty E. Lewis, Deputy Director, Air Force Junior ROTC Worldwide. “We greatly appreciate their support of our program.  This is exactly the type of relationship we love to have.”