Fish Drill Team aims for fifth Mardi Gras victory
The Fish Drill Team will compete against 30 other military schools Friday at the annual Mardi Gras Drill Meet at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Fish Drill Team has been dedicated to practically seven days a week for the past two months in preparation for the competition.
“We have won four years in a row and we’re hoping for the Class of 2017 to be the fifth year in a row to win,” said Jacob Brown, sophomore advisor for Fish Drill Team. “For the past month we’ve been practicing seven days a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday afternoons and Tuesday, Thursday mornings. On Saturdays we usually have a mock drill meet to get freshmen ready for what it’s like to be in a competition and Sunday the freshmen have an unofficial practice on their own.”
Brown said he has confidence in the freshmen’s ability to take home their the fifth-consecutive victory this year.
Brown said that the decision to not cut any members from the team sets the Texas A&M freshman drill team apart.
“One thing that’s special about Fish Drill Team is that we don’t cut anybody from the team, so if you want to join, you just keep coming out practicing and the advisors will work with you no matter what,” Brown said. “It’s open to all freshmen at the beginning of the year and on the first day we had about 90-plus fish come out, and now we’re down to 30.”
To maintain being a member on Fish Drill Team, Brown said members must display attention to detail, military bearing, physical fitness, and have a positive attitude. Brown said brushing off negativity is vital characteristic that gets freshmen through the seven practices a week.
The competition lasts for about eight hours as the judges analyze each drill team according to its precision and punctuality. The advisors warn the freshmen not to make drastic movements to reconcile mistakes as it draws more attention to the mistake and could potentially be costly for the team.
“[The judges are] looking for sharpness and attention to detail,” said Stephen Meissner, senior advisor. “One thing we really drill into the freshmen is not to secondary adjust, so if they’re wrong, stay wrong, because if they move to correct themselves they’re just going to get another point off.”
While seeking to keep one of Texas A&M’s core values — tradition — in their routine, Brown said cadets have tried to maintain classic moves while adding a variety of changes into their routine.
“We’ve added a little different things to the step off this year, we’ve added a kneeling over heads to part of the step off,” Brown said. “One of our most famous parts of the step off is the ripple line and we still have that in there.”
Michael Willis, the forerunner of Fish Drill Team, said that through his leadership and motivation, he has kept his team focused on the idea of unity, which is paramount for the team if it expects to win.
“There are currently 29 of us, including myself, and I have to ensure where they are, what they’re doing and if they’re not at practice I need to know why,” Willis said. “For competition purposes, which we’re doing this weekend, I command a block of 16 cadets and we compete in three phases called regulation, inspection and exhibition. This weekend we’ve got to win first, I want our team to be national champions.”
Willis said excellence is what sets Texas A&M above the rest on competition day.
“Drill is an art and a science,” Willis said. “The science is every move is the same, everyone knows how to put a rifle up to their arm and then put it to their shoulder. All the other teams from other schools know what they’re doing. What sets us above the rest of them is the intensity and the sharpness that we have, which has made us national champions for years and years.”
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