Baylor ROTC hosts Bear Invitational for Texas high schools

By James Stockton

Junior ROTC cadets from across Texas will march to Baylor’s campus this weekend for the Baylor ROTC’s Bear Invitational Drill Meet.

The invitational, which beings at 8 a.m. Saturday, will pit schools from all over Texas in competitions focused on military precision. An awards ceremony ends the day’s exercises at 5:30 p.m.

Cadet Cpt. David Brenna, a Kirklan, Wash., junior, is in charge of running the invitational put on by Baylor’s drill team the Blue Knights.

“It’s an opportunity for JROTC cadets to see a college campus,” Brenna said.

Cpt. Dennis Zoltak, faculty adviser for last year’s Bear Invitational and assistant professor of aerospace studies, echoed the importance of such an event for both college ROTC students and high school junior ROTC students.

“It gives the opportunity for our ROTC to get leadership,” Zoltak said, adding that it’s also used as a recruiting tool for Baylor. “A lot of students who come to our competition end up coming to Baylor and some join our ROTC.”

But recruitment isn’t the primary goal of the invitational.

The drill competitions give junior ROTCs the chance to showcase their abilities as drill teams, as well as gain feedback from judges that helps them prepare for national drill competitions.

Cadet Cpt. Ron Martin, Burleson senior, has served as an Honor Guard judge for the last three Bear Invitationals and said he believes the feedback is essential.

“Sometimes there are things that we see and they don’t,” Martin said. “They do other competitions and our feedback helps them get better.”

Cadets begin arriving at 7 a.m. and the competitions start at 8 a.m. The events range from armed exhibition, which involves the spinning and tossing of drill rifles, to an event toward the end of the day called drill down.

“It’s kind of like Simon Says but with drill commands,” Brenna said.

Many of the events involve a regulation competition and an exhibition competition. All regulation events are the same for all teams, and the cadets must follow a strict guide while performing their steps. In contrast, the exhibitions are choreographed by each individual team and are therefore different for each team.

These armed and unarmed outdoor competitions will take place on Fountain Mall, but not all of the events are physical in nature. There is also an indoor presentation in Bennett Auditorium and an academic test given in Rena Marrs McLean Gymnasium.

Each school pays an entry fee per team entered, with the proceeds going directly to the trophies awarded at the end of competition. The invitational will consist of Army, Marine and Air Force ROTCs competing.

“We’ve built a reputation for ourselves,” Brenna said, citing the prestige of Baylor as another big draw to the invitational.