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by: CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Contributed photo

Practice, practice, and more practice.
   That is what it takes for a first place win at a NJROTC meet, and that's what the Crook County High School team delivered last Saturday.
   Naval Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps of CCHS sponsored the home meet against 10 Washington and Oregon schools.
   About 400 Junior ROTC students attended the event, which included Air Force, Army, and Navy.
   The CCHS teams placed first in armed and unarmed drill and both of the school's color guard teams placed first in competition as well.
   Drill team commanders Kyle Nash and Andy Lopez, both CCHS seniors, placed first in unarmed drill and armed drill, respectively.
   "Both of my drill team commanders, in unarmed drill and armed drill, have to memorize about 37 commands, and both of them took place," Donny Jackson, master chief of the CCHS JROTC, said proudly.
   The CCHS team encountered one minor problem. During the competition Commander Lopez's hat fell off.
   "His rifle hit the hat and moved it a little bit. You can't move it or correct it. You're not allowed to," said Jackson.
   Lopez didn't lose his bearings, and kept performing.
   "For a little bit he couldn't see anything. It was kind of a weird moment, everyone was watching what he was going to do, and he did exactly what he was told to do: Just go on through the routine," he continued.
   Every move in the performance is planned and calculated, taking months to perfect the overall presentation.
   "It's a growing process with students. They have so many hours of practice and performance and it's all done very quickly; they have to be extremely precise," Jackson said.
   However, the competition isn't just about marching in the armed and unarmed teams.
   Competitors undergo a 10-minute personal inspection, where NJROTC members have to stand perfectly still and answer judges questions correctly.
   "It's scary when you get that judge in front of you. Sometimes your brain just goes blank and you know the answer, you just can't get it out," said Jackson.
   The judges may ask about the history of the rifle, its serial number, the military chain of command, or about a competitor's uniform.
   "There are so many different things going on in the country, you're never sure where the judges will come from. It's up to the judges what to ask them and they have to know the answer," explained Jackson.
   "Students spend hours and hours on their own just studying the knowledge itself. For most students that's the toughest part," he continued.
   On top of the at-home work, the students practice on school days, starting in the morning at 6:45 until school starts at 8 a.m. After school, the team practices another two and a half hours.
   "Occasionally, we practice three to six hours on a Saturday, depending on what's available at the school," Jackson added. The team also practiced over winter break.
   There are 21 students on the unarmed drill team, and 19 on the drill team. Jackson has two positions on the drill team left.
   "We have students who take a year to learn the precision on what to do in a meet," said Jackson.
   This was the team's second competition of the season. Last month, the Junior ROTC competed in Yakima, Wash.
   "We came back and worked really hard on a lot of the detail things that we had slipped on," Jackson explained.
   The next CCHS Junior ROTC meet will be on Feb. 19 at Mt. View High School in Bend.
   "I've just been so thankful. They are awesome students this year. We have been blessed every year. They have great work ethics, are hard-working and very loyal," Jackson said.
   "They did awesome. These kids are phenomenal. They just don't quit," he continued.