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DCHS JROTC cadets marched on to these events at their state drill meet
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Cadets with Dawson County High School’s JROTC drill team recently completed at the district meet in Gwinnett County. Photo courtesy of retired Sfc. Steven Pamplin.

After previously qualifying with top spots in multiple categories, cadets with Dawson County High School’s JROTC program recently competed against other drill teams at the state meet held in Griffin, Georgia. 

The DCHS cadets placed in the following spots during the March 25 Griffin meet:

  • Armed squad (led by C. Lt. Col. Carsyn Tate): 15 out of 27 teams

  • Unarmed squad (led by C. Lt. Col. Ace Park): 15 out of 33 teams

  • Unarmed platoon (led by C. Cpt. Charles Wilson): 30 out of 31 teams

During their district-level drill competition at South Gwinnett High School earlier in March, the Dawson County cadets placed in three categories.

This story continues below.

Dawson County cadets earned the following top spots at the district meet:  

  • Male individual exhibition: C. Lt. Col. Ace Park, first place

  • Unarmed squad: Second place

  • Unarmed platoon: Third place

  • Armed squad: Second place

Overall, the DCHS JROTC team placed third at the district meet. 

Throughout this season, DCHS cadets have competed in the above categories as well as male and female color guard, led by C. 2nd Lt. Caleb Pilcher and C. 1st Sgt. Vanessa Marcano. 

As the teacher who helps oversee the team, retired Sfc. Steven Pamplin explained that the whole premise of drill activities is to let the cadets grow into leaders. 

“Each one of those teams have the team captains, and they’re the one primarily responsible for training teams,” Pamplin said. “They’ve kept making progress since their first meet this season and have kept getting better and better, and that has culminated in three of the teams qualifying for state.”

Pilcher said this year was an improvement upon last season for the DCHS drill team, with the unarmed squad he also competes in making it to state for the first time. 

“We’ve done well. I definitely think Ace [Park] has faith in us,” Pilcher said. 

“Yeah, we’ve done 100% better,” added C. Sgt Avalin Estepp.

Pamplin added that Park came up with his individual exhibition routine all on his own.

“That’s pretty impressive because he doesn’t get time during our regular practice time to do that,” Pamplin said. 

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DCHS JROTC cadet Lt. Col. Ace Park practices for his male individual exhibition drill event ahead of the state meet. - photo by Julia Hansen

Park said that the key to his drill success has been taking two years to build a strong foundation and then adding moves like more advanced tricks on top of that.

As he prepares for the state meet, Park reflected on it being his last year in the drill team as a senior at DCHS.

“It feels good,” Park said. “For the four years I’ve been in this program, I haven’t really seen us go to state yet…[so] I’m very glad that I get to close out my last drill season with some accolades.”