By MC1 (EXW/SW/AW) Stacy Laseter

Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

Fifteen Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville Sailors participated as judges for the National Society of Pershing Rifles John J. Pershing Memorial Competition in Jacksonville, March 10. 

The competition included solo, duet, squad, color guard and platoon exhibitions from high school and university drill units from all over the country, with demonstrations from partner organizations including the National Society of Pershing Angels, National Society of Blackjacks and the National Society of Pershing Rifles Alumni Association. 

"We have about 20 schools represented here from all over the country," said Carrie Ann Viscanti, a junior at Hofstra University and the officer in charge of the event. "They are all competing against each other in a memorial drill competition in order to remember General John J. Pershing."

The majority of the judges had participated in similar programs when they were in high school, including GM3 Amber Harvey, who is assigned to NAS Jacksonville's security department.

"When I was in ROTC, we had nationals similar to this, where I twirled the rifle and everything," said Harvey, who judged the solo exhibition and has four years of JROTC experience. "I think judging today was a good opportunity because I had past experience. From what I can recall from personal experience, it's very nerve wracking. But this is a really big deal to them, they all have great military bearing, and they all take it very seriously." 

ITCM Gabriel Sermeno agreed and said he enjoyed giving back to a program which helped him. 

"Prior to the military, I did do four years of JROTC, so this brings back a lot of memories," Sermeno said. "I remember that when I was in JROTC there was a lot of pride and esprit de corps and giving to the community, so this is my way of giving back to those guys that are going through the same program."

The event concluded with the announcement of winners, including Clemson University's Pershing Rifles, Company C-4, who won the Varsity Rifles National Championship.

"Today has been the culmination of a very long road to get here," said Dillon Overton, a junior at Clemson University. "We have been practicing all year. Every year we aim to win, as does everyone competing, but this year we did our best to practice the entire year leading up to this point, and for the past week we've had practice once or twice a day. This has been a phenomenal experience."