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Appalachian’s ROTC Program Wins National Pershing Rifles Drill Team Championship

rotc.jpgBy Master Sgt. Mark Emaus

BOONE–Appalachian State University’s Pershing Rifles drill team has been honored as the National Pershing Rifles Champions.

The team competed against 11 universities from across the country, including Louisiana State University, Clemson, Florida State University, University of Colorado and University of Delaware, during the annual National Drill Competition held March 23 at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

This is the 11th time in 16 seasons that the team has taken first place overall in the national competition.

The team arrived in Maryland late Friday night, March 22. In spite of high winds and temperatures in the 20s, the group practiced on the competition drill field before Saturday’s competition.

The first competition events were standard regulation drills, unit movements that execute standard military drill maneuvers and commands performed according to the Army drill and ceremony manual.

The Mountaineer Color Guard led by Cadet Karen Moreland took first place in the platoon inspection. The regulation squad drill led by Cadet Chad Bailey took second place.

Louisiana State University made a strong showing in the regulation drill and looked like competition winners until Appalachian’s team began its exhibition drills.

Exhibition drill involves individual, duet, squad and platoon exercises. Each school develops a precision drill routine that pushed team members to their limits of expertise.

The exhibition drills can be as elaborate and complicated as teams dare.

The Appalachian Cadets stunned the crowd when midway through the routine Cadet Jeanie Burcham climbed “stairs” formed by rifles held by cadets standing across from each other. Standing at one end of the formation, Cadet Mitch Meadows tossed his rifle 30 yards over his shoulder and over the heads of his team members, Cadet Burcham fell backwards into the arms of her fellow cadets, and Cadet Brandon Spence caught the rifle while standing at the opposite end of the formation.

The squad exhibition drill, led by Cadet Sean Mack, was just as sensational when three cadets simultaneously threw rifles behind their backs to one another in an elaborate exchange.

Appalachian took first place in both the platoon and squad exhibition drill.

The Mountaineers’ roll continued as Cadet Meadows took third place in the individual exhibition and first place, along with Cadet Spence, in the duet exhibition drill.

Competing against 112 other cadets and judged by drill members of the Old Guard from Washington, D.C., Cadet Juston Hollar and Cadet Amy Nagle took first and fourth place respectively in the individual drill run-off.

The Pershing Rifle Team Commander is Cadet Captain Chelley Landgrebe. Also representing the Appalachian team were Andrew Besser, Ryan Johnson, Matt Ritter, Jeremy Wilhite and Rachel Price.

The team coaches were Sgt. 1st Class Jody Heikkinen and Maj. Robert Gibbard from the Department of Military Science.

The Pershing Rifles is a university club open to all Appalachian students. Participants are not required to join ROTC to be a member of the team. Students interested in joining the club should call Heikkinen or Gibbard at 262-2993 or 262-2896, or e-mail Chelley Landgrebe at for more information.