SIERRA VISTA — More than 200 Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets gathered at Buena High School on Nov. 23 for the eighth annual Huachuca Challenge, a competition hosted by the Buena High School Fighting Colt Battalion.
“We hold the Huachuca Challenge every November,” said Cadet 1st Sgt. Liam Klein, a Buena junior who is captain of the school’s armed drill teams. “There are armed and unarmed teams and each competes in four different categories that are judged. Those categories are inspection, 10-person regulation, 10-person exhibition, and four-person exhibition. Each category is judged individually with first- through third-place trophies presented to the top three, plus first- through third-place high point trophies for the highest number of overall points scored in the competition.”
Buena received eight trophies, four in the armed category and four in the unarmed, in addition to accumulating enough points for the second-place trophy overall.
Casa Grande High School came in first overall, followed by Buena, with Tempe’s Marcos de Niza High School coming in third.
Klein has been a member of Buena’s JROTC program since his freshman year of high school and plans to enroll in the University of Arizona’s ROTC after graduating from Buena. He aspires to be an Army officer after graduating from UA.
“I really like JROTC because the cadets are given a lot of responsibilities when planning different events,” Klein said. “I like that. And I like the leadership skills we’re taught through the JROTC class.”
Klein started participating in the drill competitions during his sophomore year and says he particularly enjoys being the armed drill competitions.
First Sgt. Hannah Jackson, also a junior, is captain of Buena’s unarmed inspection team.
“We put in a lot of practice to prepare for these competitions, and I’m very pleased with the outcome,” she said. “We are judged on precision, matching and appearance, and we had some tough judges at this drill meet. Given those circumstances, I am pleased with how we did and what we placed in during the meet.”
Jackson says that her experiences in Buena’s JROTC program have inspired her to pursue a possible career in the military. She said she will talk to recruiters about what the future could hold for her in the military.
Buena’s JROTC Army Instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Fausto Valenzuela, retired, said he is very proud of his cadets and how they performed in the competition.
“We were up against some tough competition, and our teams did very well,” he said. “Cadets are judged on a whole list of different things.”
Broadly, in the inspection category, judges are looking for cleanliness and proper wear of the uniform. The regulation judging is based on correctness and precision of marching. For exhibition, the cadets are judged on teamwork and unison in their movements.
“All of these drill categories require a tremendous amount of practice in order to get the synchrony down to precise moves as a team,” Valenzuela said.
In addition to the drill events, there are junior varsity color guard and varsity color guard competitions, said Valenzuela, who said there are five or six drill meets every year.
“They’re usually in Phoenix, and ours is the only drill meet in Southern Arizona,” he said. “The Fighting Colt Battalion placed in eight of 10 events, which makes me very happy with how our cadets did.”