By Jeff Keeling
Competing for the first time at the Pershing Rifles Society’s national competition March 14-15 in Richmond, Va., East Tennessee State University Army ROTC cadets came away with one national championship and two runner-up finishes.
ETSU’s color guard – consisting of freshman Ashley Hayes, sophomores Nicholas Osborne and Colin Rose, and junior Amanda Lackey – took home championship honors, team commander cadet Jonathan Shackelford said. In the squad regulation drill competition, ETSU was second to a team from University of Toledo, and in platoon regulation drill, ETSU was second to Clemson. All told, 45 programs from across the nation competed.
Shackelford, a senior manufacturing engineering technology major who will graduate in December, said the color guard competition is the most prestigious of the eight events and draws the most teams. He lauded the ETSU team, which beat out second-place Toledo and third-place California Baptist.
“They’re all good cadets, and we happened to get lucky with four cadets that are like minded and they worked as a team really well, which is hard to find,” Shackelford said.
ETSU’s ROTC commander, Lt. Col. Glen Howie, said he was “tremendously proud” of the group’s accomplishments. ETSU just joined the society a year ago.
“They worked extremely hard to represent the university and themselves well in this competition,” Howie said. “For this being the first time they’ve ever competed, and having gone up against programs that have competed for many years, they have a lot to be proud of.”
The drill squad and platoon competitions involve seven and 13-member teams, respectively. They are scored on how well they execute pre-set drilling commands, their military bearing, the sharpness with which they execute commands, and how well they follow the Army’s drill and ceremony manual.
“These guys worked for two years training up to this, and dealt with tens of hours a week practicing drill and ceremony, kept up their physical training, and maintained a higher academic requirement than the national society requires,” Shackelford said.
Colin Rose was selected as the society’s regimental commander for a region that includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. Shackelford held the post for a one-year term leading up to the convention. Zach Schuette, a senior who will be commissioned as an active duty infantry officer this spring, held the national Sergeant Major post for the society during the same term as Shackelford was regimental commander.
ETSU’s ROTC program learned in late 2014 that – contrary to an earlier decision by the U.S. Army – it would not be eliminated. Instead, it is on a path toward growth, Howie said, with a 2018 contract to provide 19 officer candidates (class of 2020) and produce at least 16 actual commissioned officers. That is up from 18 and 15 in the 2017 contract.