NU drill team

This March, the Norwich University Regimental Drill Team left the frosty temps of Vermont to bask in the warm California sun and the glory of being crowned national champions at the 2006 Southern California Invitational Drill Meet.

Coming on the heels of two second-place finishes at Tulane University in the 2004 and 2005 Official Collegiate Drill Competitions, the win at the SCIDM is a capstone achievement for a team that only began competing in the national competition in 2003.

"It's outstanding experience for us," said senior Jonathan Ryder, commander of the drill team company. "And it's an exciting experience for the seniors to go out on top and leave something for the underclassmen to work with."

Norwich's Shock Platoon, a group of 18 drill team members, competed against squads from 11 colleges, numerous high schools, and teams from all of the country's service schools. The Cadets claimed first-place in Platoon Exhibition and second-place in Platoon Regulation and Inspection. Despite a few setbacks with the Color Guard and the Four-Man Exhibition teams, both of which did not place, the Cadet team as a whole outperformed the other squads to claim the national title -- no small feat, considering schools such as Embry Riddle, Air Force Academy, and West Point fielded strong drill teams at the competition.

Since 2003 the Norwich Regimental Drill Team has competed in the Official Collegiate Drill Competition, held annually at Tulane University in New Orleans. However, due to the devastation in the Gulf Coast region caused by Hurricane Katrina, organizers were forced to cancel the 2006 event. Ryder said the team expected an alternative national event to be scheduled, and the squad was thrilled when the competition was moved to the University of Southern California. Paying for the trip, Ryder said, was a bit tricky.

"It was touch and go whether we'd be able to go or not because of funding," Ryder said. Two trips earlier in the school year to Cornell University and Washington D.C. had strained the team's budget. Fortunately the team was able to come up with the funds. "We managed to scrape by, and we went and proved ourselves, and we're pretty happy about that."

In the weeks leading up to the SCIDM, Ryder said the drill team kept to its rigorous practice schedule, working two hours a day, five days a week. All that work certainly paid off last weekend. Ryder said the team is thrilled with the outcome and already looking forward to a repeat next year.

"We're always talking about a repeat," he said. "It's kind of an unwritten rule that you’ll come back and compete again. Other schools are always gunning for your position, so it's kind of an insult if you don't go back."