After Greenbrier High School's Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps achieved a first in program history, instructor Master Gunnery Sgt. Tony Howard has them thinking even bigger.
The next goal for the drill team is to make it all the way to Pensacola, Fla., for the NJROTC Nationals, where 16 teams will compete for the nation's top spot.
"This is our first time even making it in the 10 years the unit's been established," Howard said. "This was our main goal for the last two or three years and we've achieved it, so we've set our sights on making it to the Navy Nationals."
In order to make it to Nationals, Greenbrier's squad will have to finish in the top two at the Area 12 Championships on March 5 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Howard said it's key for his 35 cadets to remember the foundations of their training as they advance to bigger and bigger competitions.
It all comes down to the program's goal of providing solid citizens.
"We're geared toward teaching," Howard said. "Our main goal is teaching students how to become a better citizen and how to contribute to their community.
"There's a focus on community service, drill, academic, and it's all part of the discipline of being a better citizen."
For the drill competition, cadets are graded on different styles of drills such as platoon; fancy drills, which includes things such as spinning rifles; and basic military drills, both armed and unarmed. There's also a color guard portion.
Greenbrier qualified at Cross Creek High School on Nov. 13.
Because the program has little funding, the participants must raise money for travel.
The team will hold a spaghetti dinner Feb. 10 to raise funds to travel to Jacksonville, and for a trip to Pensacola if the team can qualify.
The dine-in or carry-out dinner will last from 5-8 p.m. in the Greenbrier High School cafeteria. Tickets cost $6 for adults and $3 for children. Spaghetti, bread, salad, dessert and drinks will be served.
The team competes in several disciplines. Included is the main drill portion, along with an academic event, a military inspection event and a physical fitness portion.
The squad also has qualified for a separate academic competition to be held in late March in Henry County, Ga.
Finally, Greenbrier cadets will compete in an orienteering competition Feb. 5 at Mistletoe State Park in Appling. It tests speed and agility as competitors use a compass to navigate through the woods.
Angie Yarbro's son, Caleb, is a member of Greenbrier's squad. She said she has enjoyed seeing what Caleb and his teammates have accomplished.
"As a parent, I think it's a great program because it teaches discipline and leadership," Yarbro said. "They don't have to be strong in every area because there's a variety of teams they can participate in.'"
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