Submitted By John Tijerina
As one of the most celebrated extracurricular teams in the Rattler Battalion, the Rattler Guard Armed Drill Team competes in precision marching drill and ceremonies (drill, for short) in the same four events as the Diamondback Unarmed Drill Team from Part I of this series. Displaying the same extreme proficiency in Inspection, Regulation Drill, Exhibition Drill, and Color Guard (Teams article Part II), the Rattler Guard differs from the Diamondbacks in that they utilize the M1903 Springfield, demilitarized rifle. The drill rifle is 43.2 inches in length and weighs 8.7 pounds. The exhibition rifles used by the team are chromed so this adds additional weight bringing the rifles total weight to over nine pounds.
To be a top competitor, team members must have great self-discipline, attention to detail, be team-oriented, be in relatively good physical condition, and have the desire to be the best. Mandatory practice begins every year in mid-July. Cadets are taught the basics of drill and ceremony such as individual movements and marching steps before moving on to squad, then platoon drill. Only after mastering the basics do they begin learning the movements with the Springfield rifles. The next stage is learning the different rifle movements and spins necessary for the exhibition, or “fancy,” part of drill. While different teams from different schools have varied names for these movements, the Rattler Guard learns the single, double, and triple spins, the single and double overhand, as well as the vader, whopper, and extended kickback, to name a few.
The competitive season begins just a few weeks after the start of the school year with local and in-state competitions during the first semester then moves into regional and national level competitions in second semester with the 5th Brigade Drill Championships here in San Antonio (February), the Army National Drill Championships in Louisville, Kentucky (March/April), and finishing up with the National High School All-Service Drill Team Championships in Daytona, Florida in early May.
While it takes a lot of hard work to be a part of this team, Cadets are rewarded with camaraderie, a better sense of teamwork, increased self-discipline and a sense of pride in a job well-done. Of course, there are the trophies, too!