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  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
    Cadet Joseph Dant competes with his teammates during an annual junior ROTC drill meet Saturday at IPFW’s Gates Sports Center. Dant is part of the Fern Creek U.S. Marine Corps Junior ROTC squad of Louisville, Ky.
March 19, 2017 1:02 AM

JROTC cadets aim high in drill meet

Frank Gray | The Journal Gazette

The guns aren’t made of balsa wood. They’re real 1903 models made of steel and heavy wood. They weigh about 8 pounds, but the junior ROTC members competing in the 46th annual Homer L. Clendenen JROTC Memorial Drill Meet at IPFW on Saturday flipped them around like batons.

The annual meet attracted about 500 junior ROTC members from 13 school in four states.

The move to IPFW was a first this year, and Maj. John Sheaffer, who runs the JROTC program at Concordia Lutheran High School. He called the meet the most prestigious in Indiana and said he hopes the new venue will allow the meet to expand to include teams from up to 30 schools in the next few years.

Teams competed in 10 categories, including armed and unarmed exhibition and regulation drills. The exhibition drills are designed by the teams themselves, and the armed drills involve spinning and tossing the heavy guns.

Sgt. 1st Class Al Conrad, who is involved with Concordia’s junior ROTC program, said the exhibitions are harder physically, but the regulation drills are more exacting.

In an armed exhibition drill by a team from Chicago, members formed two ranks.

The man at the front of each rank flipped his rifle backwards over his head, and it landed in the hands of the man at the back of the line.

It looked dangerous, and, it turns out, it can be.

Conrad said his son has ended up in the emergency room twice after whacking himself with the gun while practicing, and others have ended up in the hospital with head injuries.

Conrad said he keeps a tooth replacement kit handy just in case a team member knocks out a tooth.

Saturday’s meet was organized by the students, led by Derek Egolf, a senior at Concordia and a lieutenant colonel in the junior ROTC program there. He said it took about two months, and the event had to be planned from scratch.

Among the teams at the meet were five former national champions, Conrad said.

“It’s about kids being leaders,” he said.

fgray@jg.net