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Gainesville Composite Squadron Takes First Place Once Again in Florida Wing Cadet Competition

posted Jan 21, 2013, 6:53 PM by William McCombie   [ updated Jan 21, 2013, 6:54 PM ]

By 2nd Lt. Don Geelhoed
Drug Demand Reduction Officer

Four cadets from the Gainesville Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol brought home the first place overall trophy once again from the Florida Cadet Challenge which was held at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL this past weekend. The cadets who participated were C/CMSgt Hunter Wood, C/ MSgt Ethan Beaman, C/ SSgt Andrew Geelhoed, and C/ Amn Ryan Mimms, who practiced three hours a day, three days a week under the tutelage of C/ 2nd Lt Tyler Gwynn. Gwynn is a Cadet Officer and no longer permitted to compete in the Cadet Challenge. However, Gwynn is a former Color Guard Champion whose team won National Championship several years ago. Hunter Wood had previously been on the Cadet Color Guard team and was familiar with how competitive the other teams could be.

Friday night, December 7th, we drove down to Tampa to scout out McDill Air Force Base and prepare for Saturday’s competition. The cadets studied their books and flash cards that they had prepared. The panel quiz was to be one of the most challenging events and these Cadets definitely possessed the intelligence to excel in that event. Two of the Cadets are International Baccalaureate Students at Eastside High School and another student is part of Gainesville High School’s Cambridge Program.

I was able to escort the team since I am a Senior Member (2nd Lt) of the Civil Air Patrol. We drove around the base and discovered a Burger King. The cleanest most efficiently run Burger King I have ever experienced. For me, someone without any military experience, I was pleasantly surprised with how clean and neat everything was on the base. We identified the Airman Leadership School (ALS) where most of the indoor activities were to take place and the track where the mile run was to be completed. The sun had already set and I got disoriented driving around the base, but we eventually found our way to a gate (not the gate that we had entered into the base) and got directions on how to get back to our hotel. There was a lighted Christmas tree display and B-25 bomber and an F-4 Phantom posted near the center of the base which served as a guide for us back to Dale-Mabry. In the dark we could also see some KC135 refueling jets near the hangars. I was like a kid again in awe of all the airplanes.

I checked in with the senior members, including Captain Tom Miller, who had organized the competition. We learned that of the 80 plus squadrons in Florida, only 10 Color Guard Teams showed up to compete. The cadets pressed and fixed their uniforms. There were minor mishaps with a pants button and a broken epaulet button, but the uniforms were made ready and the cadets studied their material some more.

Saturday morning came and the fog was thick. We all piled into one of the teaching auditoriums of the Airman Leadership School. The rules were discussed and the schedules were handed out along with the race numbers for the mile run.

Our first event was the Outdoor Practical Drill. We were lead down a hall to a doorway outside. Our Marshall told the team to go before the judges were even ready. The judges consisted of senior Civil Air Patrol members and Air Force officers. The cadets performed very well running the Colors up the flagpole, displaying the Colors at half mast, and folding the flag with the dignity and the respect that it deserves.

The next event was the Indoor Practical Drill. The cadets reported to the room and were given five minutes to study the obstacles and the layout to determine where to put the flag poles and how to approach and post the colors. The cadets made one obvious error that made my heart sink. However the rest of the drill went very well.

The third event was the General Inspection. The cadets had been very concerned since one of their uniforms had a stain that would not come out. The cadets stood with confidence and were rated on appearance and bearing. An Air Force Colonel could not contain his expression when he noticed the stain on the one Cadet’s shirt, but Cadets again performed very well.

The fourth event was the Standard Drill. The inspection and Standard Drill took place inside an airplane hangar that was spotless. There was a red line on the floor which clearly stated to any unauthorized person who crossed it that “Deadly Force was Justified.” Needless to say, I stayed behind the red line and watched the Cadets compete from there. The Cadets performed very well and commented that that had been one of their strongest events.

The fifth event was the Panel Quiz. There were nine different rounds of panel quizzes in four different rooms. The Gainesville Squadron had to compete with each of the other teams at different times. The Cadets were each given buttons to “buzz in” when they desired to answer the panel question. Each session started with the instructions and testing of the buttons and equipment. Each time there were five 10 point questions followed by five 15 point questions. The cadets were awesome. On the first quiz, one of the cadets buzzed in after the Air Force Colonel had only read about five words of the question. She questioned if that was allowed, which it was, and the cadet answered the question correctly. Two of the event s were close, but for the most part the Gainesville Squadron was infallible. Several judges commented on how Gainesville was too quick to let any of the other teams answer. The Gainesville Squadron was undefeated in the panel quizzes and their total score may have been a new record.

The final event was the mile run. The track was a nice rubber oval that was not quite a quarter mile. The run consisted of four and a half laps to make a mile distance. I gave the marshal the cadets' names and race numbers and I verified that the cadets ran the required four and a half laps. Gainesville was in the fourth and final heat which was now well after the sun had set. After the run started the Gainesville cadets all stayed together for the most part. They finished with times of 6:25, 6:31, 6:33, and 6:57. This was outstanding considering one of the Cadets had never beaten the 7:00 minute mark before.

We ate dinner and the cadets got a well-deserved night of sleep back at the hotel. The next morning it was difficult getting the cadets out of bed and ready for the awards ceremony. They dressed up in their dress blues one more time and packed up all of their suitcases into my car.

The awards ceremony was held in the theater on base. I brought a still camera and a video camera to record the ceremony. Both devices ran out of charge prior to the overall winner being announced. The Gainesville Squadron finished 3rd in Standard Drill, 2nd in Indoor Practical Drill, 2nd in Outdoor Practical Drill, 2nd In In-Ranks Inspection, 3rd in the Written Exam, 3rd in the mile run, and 1st in the Panel Quizzes. Because Gainesville finished in the top three in each of these events, they won trophies for each. When the third and second place overall trophies were awarded, it slowly sank in that Gainesville had won first overall in the competition. I suddenly realized that all of those hours watching the boys march, present the flag, and run were all worth it. I felt a great deal of pride in the cadets and their achievement. We were now informed that we would be representing the Florida Wing of the Civil Air Patrol in the regional competition for a chance to compete at the national level. Regionals is scheduled for April, which means that after the start of the year, we shall be spending many hours practicing again to hopefully take the cadets to the next level.