By Michelle Treasure
While the rest of Provo slept, Air Force cadets lined the Smith Fieldhouse Thursday morning to watch and cheer as their peers marched, twisted rifles and completed formations with precision.
The Air Force ROTC drill team is preparing for their biggest competition of the year in March with a series of practice performances.
“Precision is the key,” said Cadet Clark Haymond, a sophomore from Kirtland, Ohio majoring in manufacturing engineering and member of the team.
The drill team has been working on their routine for five months. Before then, three-quarters of the team never touched a rifle before, said Cadet Captain Erik Hulme, a senior from Spring, Texas.
The drill team will compete against other universities at the Southern California Invitational Drill Meet. BYU has placed second at the competition behind the Air Force Academy for the past three years. Their goal this year is to win it all.
There are three aspects to drill team competition, Hulme said. The first is inspection, when military instructors check the cleanliness and order of the team”s dress uniforms and rifles. Cadets are also drilled about Air Force regulations.
Memorizing the entire book of regulation is one of the hardest parts of being on the drill team, said Cadet Trevor Andreasen, a freshman from Las Vegas, majoring in mechanical engineering.
In the next competition aspect of regulation, Hulme is given a card with commands for the team to perform within a certain amount of time.
The last part of competition is the exhibition. The drill team creates their own routine which is judged on difficulty level, precision and staying within the time limit. Hulme modified last year”s routine for competition this year. It includes precise marching, formation and rifle maneuvers.
It is a precise and difficult routine that should impress the competition judges this year, Hulme said.
The hardest aspect of the routine is the “12 man over,” Hulme said. The 12 drill team members stand in groups of three facing each other, then simultaneously throw their rifles over the head of the person in front of them to another team member.
Staying on cadence and maintaining the routine”s rhythm is an important and difficult aspect of the drill team. It takes practice and trust for the team to do well.
The drill team recently added a Saturday morning practice to their existing schedule of 6 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday.
“Practice performances help the team to know what its like to be on the spot,” Hulme said.
The team will perform next in front of the ROTC”s commissioned officers before heading to an exhibition in Salt Lake in February.
Team members said they are nervous and excited for their upcoming competition.
“A lot of the same people are going, and it will be great to have the core cheering and supporting us,” Haymond said.
Haymond added that his favorite part of the drill team is the camaraderie between the members, a sentiment echoed by other cadets.
“I probably wouldn”t be in college if it wasn”t for this,” Andreasen said.