Jenesis May was so focused on following commands that he didn’t realize he was the last cadet standing.

May, a sophomore cadet from the Smith-Cotton JROTC Tiger Battalion, is the 2022 national champion in the armed individual drill event, which was held as part of the Army Drill National Championships held last week in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Almost 300 cadets flooded the competition floor to vie for the title. As trained military experts excused cadets who failed to complete commands with precision, May remained in the hunt.

“They would call out different movements, and they would call out trick commands; like if you are at right shoulder, you can’t do a facing movement, so you have to be paying attention,” May said.

As the floor cleared and it came down to the final five cadets, May was just hoping to get to the top three; once in the top three, he was hopeful to get at least second place.

“I couldn’t believe that I made it that far,” he said. As the second-place cadet was tapped out, May remained focused. “I don’t even remember what the crowd did. … I was confused, I couldn’t believe it. I kind of just stood there for a second."

S-C Senior Army Instructor Lt. Col. (Ret.) Harry Cunningham said May performed better than all other cadets in stationary drill and the manual of arms.

“From what I could see, everything (May) did was perfect,” Cunningham said.

May attributes his performance to the Tiger Battalion’s practice mindset of treating every drill as if it were a competition. Cunningham said the purpose is for more than drill readiness.

“In the military, we have an old adage that says, ‘Train as you fight.’ So we extend that to here, ‘Practice as you compete,’” he said.

“When the pressure is on, it is just muscle memory and they can just go out and do it. That same mindset will carry on wherever they go.” Cunningham, who thanked S-C JROTC supporters in the community for making the Florida trip possible, said May has impressed the JROTC instructors since his early days in the program.

“From the time (May) was a freshman, he just struck us as … truly a good person. Genuine, humble, and hard-working – those three adjectives describe him very well,” Cunningham said. “There is no guile with Cadet May; what you see is what you get. In the battalion, he adds a measure of calmness, professionalism and stalwartness. He’s one of the good ones."

JROTC involvement boosts May’s confidence and provides friendships
and academic support.

“I know that participating in JROTC is going to help my future. I
enjoy it a lot; it is one of my favorite things to do,” he said.

In the photos:
Smith-Cotton High School JROTC Cadet Jenesis May, a sophomore,
won the armed individual drill competition at the 2022 Army Drill
National Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla.
(Photo with flag background is courtesy of Inter-State Studio)

InterState Studio
InterState Studio
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