MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
The sound of cadence calls and marching filled the air Saturday as more than 500 Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets from around the state converged on McEntire Joint National Guard Base to compete in the 2018 “Top Gun” Drill Meet.
The annual match, hosted by the South Carolina Air National Guard, drew in 18 high schools from the Midlands, Upstate and the Lowcountry to participate in a dozen drill and ceremony competition events.
“The SCANG [South Carolina Air National Guard] is always happy to support our community and offer opportunities for South Carolina youth to learn and showcase their talents,” said Master Sgt. Steve David, the event coordinator and SCANG recruiting superintendent.
Months of planning and practice went into making the day a success. In addition to giving the cadets a chance to compete for honors against the best of the best from around the state, the competition also served a secondary purpose of providing the students with exposure to possible military service and career opportunities after graduation.
“We are very proud to be able to host the Top Gun Drill Meet. There are a variety of events and there’s an incredible amount of talent and innovation in the way they’re doing things. It’s pretty neat to see what these young men and women are capable of and it reflects greatly on what the future of our country has going for it,” said Col. Akshai “Abu” Gandhi, 169th Fighter Wing Vice Commander.
The 12 drill and ceremony categories included platoon, squad, duet and individual level competitions which featured precision marching, color guard as well as armed and unarmed routines. All the routines were held next to the base flight line with McEntire’s F-16 fighter jets serving as a backdrop. Inside specially designated and cordoned off drill pads, JROTC programs representing the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps literally put their best foot forward to prove they were number one.
SCANG Airmen as well as Airmen from nearby Shaw Air Force Base served as judges for the competition. Just watching the cadets perform, one could easily sense the pride and enthusiasm the students had while they represented their school and service sponsor.
“This is a big deal for them. They have poured in hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears to put their team together. They are fired up, motivated and thrilled to be here,” Gandhi said. “Somewhere out here on this drill pad are our future leaders whether it be in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps or out in the civilian sector in one way shape or form. Our future leaders are represented right here and right now.”
At the end of the day an awards ceremony was held to celebrate the winners. The overall winners for the 2018 Top Gun Drill Meet were:
4th place - Irmo High School
1st place - Sumter High School
2nd place - Lakewood High School
3rd place - Camden Military Academy