Two hundred fifty hours of drill and academic practice recently paid off for three Rim Country teens from Payson Civil Air Patrol Squadron 209.
"The drill team from Arizona swept the competition this year at the Southwest Regional CAP Cadet Competition," said adult mentor Mike Snively, senior member of Squadron 209.
They won against teams from Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma and are headed to the national competition in Washington, D.C. in July.
Second Lt. Matthew West of Tonto Basin, Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Snively of Payson and Staff Sgt. Matthew Phillips of Tonto Basin were the three local young men who participated in the 16-member Arizona Wing Composite Drill Team. West, 16, is in tenth grade at Payson High School,
Snively, 17, is in the eleventh grade and home schooled, and Phillips, 14, is in the eighth grade at Tonto Basin Elementary School.
In order to make it as far as they have, the cadets need to do well in seven areas of competition.
One of the most challenging is the march drill. In it a team leader calls out commands from a card.
"We don't know what the cards will be ahead of time," cadet Snively said.
The three cadets agreed that of the categories, "innovative drill" is their favorite.
The innovative drill is a five-minute routine the team has choreographed ahead of time.
"Movements are intricate and creative," West said.
"Golf" is a favorite formation of Phillips.
"In unison, the team breaks into four groups," he said. Then they stop, turn and stop again for seven seconds. The team breathes in unison. On the seventh second the team takes a step and goes into the next formation.
"Going out there and doing it flawlessly is what makes the march fun," Phillips said.
Beyond the skills on the field, cadets are also measured on paper. Knowledge of the aerospace field is tested in a written exam and by the Panel Quiz.
Q: What is the imaginary line from the front of the plane to the tail?
(A: Longitudinal axis.)
Q: Who is considered the father of modern rocketry?
(A: Dr. Robert Goddard.)
Even when he knew the answer Phillips said he didn't ring the buzzer to answer, panel questions at first, but as time has gone on and his confidence built, he has become a team player.
"O Ride" short for orientation ride is one hands-on learning opportunity for CAP cadets.
There are two sets of controls in CAP's Cessna 182 so each cadet can take their turn in the cockpit flying the aircraft.
If panel questions are an area of challenge for the team, so is team speed consistency in the mile-long race.
The fastest time on the team is five minutes, six seconds. At seven minutes fifteen seconds, Snively said, he is training to run faster.
Team volleyball provides a test of a team's physical abilities.
Personal Inspection is also a team event. Everyone puts on his dress blues and is judged on how perfectly turned out they are.
"The (national) competition will be fierce, but whatever the outcome, the Arizona Wing Drill Team and Color Guard Team cadets have shown they have the right stuff and are already winners," Arizona wing commander Col. Ernest Bourgeois wrote in an e-mail to his staff.
"The other teams are going to be watching us the first time we come through that door in D.C.," West said. "We have to keep a winning mental mindset from the beginning."