Cadets Named 'Best Drill Team In U.S.'

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Payson Civil Air Patrol cadets put Arizona on the map, bringing credit not only to themselves, but also to their hometown of Payson.

Three young men, Matthew Snively, 17, Matthew West, 16, and Matthew Phillips, 14, of Payson's Civil Air Patrol Squadron 209 were part of a 16-person drill team that represented Arizona at the National Cadet Competition held in Washington, D.C. in July.

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Payson Civil Air Patrol cadets (from left) Matthew Phillips, Tonto Basin, Matthew Snively, Payson, and Matthew West, Tonto Basin, hear a special citation read by Mike Snively (at right), deputy commander of the cadets, while Major Carl Damon and Major Harrison Wheeler look on.

The drill team, which represented both the Arizona Wing and the Southwest Region, won the competition and was awarded First Place Overall as the Best Drill Team in the United States.

This is the first time the Arizona Wing has won this prestigious award. The group was awarded the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Sweepstakes Trophy for their outstanding performance.

In addition to winning the National Drill Team competition, the cadets were recently awarded the Commander's Commendation Award for their outstanding performance and service in Civil Air Patrol during the period of Aug. 1, 2005 through April 1, 2006.

The citation was initially awarded to the cadets for their hard work when they earned the right to represent the State of Arizona at the Southwest Regional competition in April 2006. The citation was amended to include the fact that these cadets won the Southwest Regional competition, earning the right to go to the national competition in Washington, D.C.

The National Cadet Competition consists of seven events in which cadets are graded in physical fitness, aerospace education, military precision drill and knowledge, and most importantly, teamwork. The Arizona team competed against teams from Puerto Rico, Illinois, North Carolina, Washington, New Hampshire, Missouri and Utah. All of the teams competing were considered the "Best of the Best" and represented the finest cadets in the nation, with several of those teams having been to the finals during previous years.

In December, the drill team showed their stuff at the Wing Cadet Competition where they earned the right to represent Arizona at the regional competition. On April 9, the drill team won the Southwest Region Competition in Tucson, winning over the best teams from Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. With this victory came the honor of representing these six wings (states) as the Southwest Region drill team at the National Cadet Competition.

These cadets have been together practicing and training for 11 months, putting in nearly 400 hours of practice. The team is comprised of cadets from units all over the state. It includes cadets from the Payson, Prescott, Cottonwood, Scottsdale, Deer Valley squadrons and one from Wing Staff. The cadets practiced every Saturday for eight hours at Deer Valley Airport.

"From the first day of practice until the team returned home to Arizona with a trophy and the national title, the entire ordeal was truly a phenomenal, inspiring, unforgettable experience. See what Arizona Wing Cadets can do?" said Capt. Jean Hurley of Cottonwood, the drill team's senior member escort.

The three Payson cadets also want to thank all of the local Payson and Tonto Basin business owners and friends who helped support them financially to make this endeavor possible.

-- To reach Teresa McQuerrey call 474-5251 ext. 113 or e-mail tmcquerrey@payson.com.

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