GREAT FALLS — JRROTC stands for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and the young cadets in attendance at Great Falls High School have been training for competition, practicing their footwork and their rifling skills.
They are member of the Drill Team, which is a kind of marching unit. Participants dress in military uniform and move in regimented coordination while twirling their rifles in unison.
Mason Seibel and Zephania Burk are juniors in their 2nd and 3rd years as cadets, respectively. The two had been training for a competition in Spokane, scheduled for Saturday, December 10th. Unfortunately, the competition was canceled due to a recent snowfall. The duo would have been part of the first Armed Drill Team in Montana to compete in such an event.
“It's something they've been preparing for. It's been months of practice. They put in a lot of lot of sweat, a lot of hours. And just to have it cancel at the last minute, I mean, I'm pretty bummed out, too, because I was excited to take the team there,” says Drill Team coach Luke Fecteau.
The team plans to host its own drill team competition here in Great Falls, and are extending invites to teams in Helena and Billings.
Despite the disappointment, Juniors, Mason and Zephania, remain committed to the program, detailing how much it has helped shape them.
"For drill team, you have to commit to every bit of it. You have to learn the proper way to do everything. The JRROTC is a citizenship class, as it teaches you good values. It teaches you discipline and is a great physical workout as well,” says 2nd-year cadet, Mason Seibel.
Third-year cadet Zephania Burn said, “So far I can say that I have improved as a person. I just generally have a better mindset. I'm much more respectful, understanding, much more knowledgeable.”
Mason says the program has even helped him do better in school. “My freshman year, I failed math class. Because of the skills and discipline this has taught me, I’ve been able to maintain a 3.5 GPA since then,” he says.
Fecteau has experience on a Drill Team, having been a two-time National Champion in high school in San Antonio. His experience in the Guard is what led him to this position. He says he’s a learned a great deal from the kids, though he still has to remind himself they’re just that, kids.
“I have learned a lot from them. I've learned that I'm pretty direct about things and I need to be a little bit nicer every once in a while. Turns out they aren't troops. They're students. I can't yell at them like I would subordinates, you know, I've got to be pretty nice to them,” says Fecteau jokingly.
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