They’re hard to miss in their military garb among the constant stream of sweatshirt-clad college students that inhabit UR, and yet they begin to blend in as part of the campus crowds just as easily as biology majors.
If the Cornell University Invitational Drill Competition — which took place Nov. 19-20 in Ithaca, NY — is any indication however, the Rochester midshipmen of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program have every reason to stand out.
There are two annual drill competitions, one at Cornell University in the fall, and one at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa. in the spring. The midshipmen who compete in them consist of freshmen and marine options who are required to participate, as well as anyone else who wants to volunteer.
The team practices every Monday and Wednesday in the early morning, from 5:45 – 7 a.m. Sophomore Tony Momb, a member of the team, remembers that he has woken up as early as 4:30 a.m. to arrive on time.
As the annual competitions draw nearer, the team intensifies its practice schedule, meeting every day Monday through Friday.
“When you talk to the freshmen their eyes are kind of glazing over, [by that point]” Momb said.
And yet at this year’s competition, it appears that all of their hard work has paid off. The team came in second place in overall drill, which includes a platoon inspection, squad basic drill, platoon basic drill, color guard and even a trick team.
The team received first place in the overall military excellence competition which is more on the athletic side, consisting of various races and relays in swimming and running, a basketball team tournament, a physical fitness test and an Ironman competition.
“[It’s] a little bit of fun … just to show where we’re at,” Momb noted. “[But it’s] also a competition between schools to see who’s on top.”
The team earned nine awards in total, with two third places, two second places and five first places. Freshman David DeLong took first place in the 10 K run, finishing in 36 minutes — a whole one minute and 30 seconds ahead of the second place runner.
Understandably, the team is extremely pleased with the results.
“It’s good to see the hard work that the midshipmen put in pay off,” Gunnery Sergeant Xavier Jordan, who coaches the team, said.
It appears that the midshipmen themselves can attest to this statement.
“It was phenomenal,” sophomore John Emery said. “We beat West Point and the Naval Academy, and that’s all they do. As a non-military institution goes, we did incredibly well.”
UR has already had a good deal of success at the competition in the past, coming in third in overall drill, and second in overall MEC at last year’s Cornell competition. The midshipmen, however, were far from satisfied with those results.
“We always try to live by the University motto, Ever Better,” Momb explained. “[The other teams] know … that we’re ready to bring it — they know that it’s not just beginner’s luck.”
The team’s success stems from a combination of multiple factors, from the teachers to the competitors.
“Gunnery Sergeant Jordan is phenomenal,” Emery said. “[But] it’s terrifying when he’s mad at you. The seniors [who help train] this year and last year did a really good job.”
It is, of course, a give and take process though, and just as much responsibility falls on the midshipmen themselves to take what they have learned and do the best that they can.
“Motivation goes both ways,” Jordan said. “A lot of it is self-induced. [The midshipmen] put in the time, they were focused.”
Despite the UR midshipmen’s solid performance this year, they are always looking into the future. The competition at Cornell is often about training the freshmen and getting them used to the competition, while the one at Villanova is more about overall perfection. Jordan stresses the fact that the immediate future will be about maintaining the excellence they have earned.
“I think the biggest thing we get is cohesion,” Jordan said. “We learn a lot about each other, and we have fun. I think we get stronger, more like a family,” Jordan pointed out.

Tony Momb - Contributing Photographer

Goldin is a member of the class of 2013.

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