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Braden River High School JROTC drill team passes down keys to success

Drill team leaders prepare underclassmen to continue legacy of success after winning more state championships.

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After dedicating four years to the Braden River High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps drill team, Brett Brustad has finished his senior year with a state championship title. 

And Brustad, a battalion commander, is happy to hand the reins over to those who will remain in the program after he graduates.

“I’m ready to go,” Brustad said. 

Freshman Madison Kelley is ready to stay.

“I’m ready to keep going,” Kelley said. “My main thing next year is I’m excited to take the freshmen under my wing like the seniors, juniors and sophomores did for me this year. I can teach them the tricks and techniques to keep the legacy (of winning) alive.”

Members of the Braden River High School JROTC drill team won state championships April 2 at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland, adding to the team’s perennial success.

Braden River’s JROTC drill team won its sixth consecutive regional drill team championship this year and has placed in the top five teams at the state championship in each of the last six years. 

“It feels like four years of hard work has paid off, and it feels satisfying to end with the championship,” senior Elayna Andrews said.

Throughout the year, the leaders of the Braden River JROTC program instill high standards and values in the younger cadets and look for students who could become leaders that can continue the program’s success.

“Every year is kind of scary because when you’re a freshman, you’re worried you won’t ever be able to play catch up to the upperclassmen,” junior Julianna Chupp said. “Then the rest of your years you’re worried the freshmen won’t catch up to you. But every year we pull through and do great.”

Kelley said it’s a confidence booster when the freshmen are able to get on the same skill level and meet the standards the upperclassmen have set. 

Kelley created a rifle spinning routine this year and appreciated the constructive criticism the upperclassmen gave her so she could improve. 

“It motivates me when they take time out for you,” Kelley said.

When choosing the upcoming leaders of the drill team, Chupp said leaders are chosen not only based on their skills but also their dedication and leadership traits. 

“If you’re good at spinning or marching but you don’t show up to practice or your grades are constantly down, you’re not going to be chosen for positions because dependability is just as important as the skill.”

(Back) Ethan Mullett, Ben Solum, Nathan Walmsley, Brett Brustad, Brock Cunningham, Imran Sandhu, (front) Christian Bell, Reece Miller, Jacob Jackson, Stuart Macaulay and Jeremiah Gonzalez place first in male platoon exhibition.
(Back) Ethan Mullett, Ben Solum, Nathan Walmsley, Brett Brustad, Brock Cunningham, Imran Sandhu, (front) Christian Bell, Reece Miller, Jacob Jackson, Stuart Macaulay and Jeremiah Gonzalez place first in male platoon exhibition.

Juniors and seniors on the drill team said they look for freshmen and sophomores who exhibit the ability to motivate others, a positive attitude, dedication and the ability to balance hard work with having fun. 

Adanna Wharton, a sophomore, has looked to the upperclassmen to see what traits she should have to become a leader.

“I look for the types of leaders that would motivate me to do drill,” Wharton said. “What I see them do that makes me feel good about being on the drill team is what I want to do.”

For example, she has seen leaders motivate team members rather than yell at them. 

“When we’re marching back from practice, we do cadences, and that’s motivating to me,” Wharton said. “We yell a lot in the cadences, and that’s fun. But if we’re just marching back and someone’s yelling at the entire drill team, then it’s not fun, it’s not motivating.”

Chupp said drill team members always have to work toward improving themselves and their skills.

“You can get to a certain point where you’re like, ‘I’m pretty good at everything now,’ but you’re not because you meet new people and you realize they’re better than you,” Chupp said. “You have to keep improving because it doesn’t matter how far you think you get, there’s always room to improve. Don’t get too comfortable with where you are.”

Wharton said the freshmen, sophomores and juniors on the team don’t worry when the seniors graduate because they have led by example and have taught the younger members the discipline and dedication it takes to advance to the state championship.

“We don’t have to worry what’s going to happen when the seniors are gone because it seems like instead of losing those people and getting worse, you still end up getting better,” Wharton said.


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