FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 18, 2014) -- Despite the long hours of practice, the dedication; and the enthusiasm of the advanced individual training Soldiers who participated in Saturday’s 2014 23rd Quartermaster Brigade Drill and Ceremony Competition, it all came down to one jaw-dropping, extraordinary move that whipped the crowd into a frenzy and deflated the opposition’s hopes.
Called the Jaques Tower, it featured its namesake, Pvt. Rachel Jaques, standing atop five M-16 rifles stacked horizontally in a crisscross pattern by her Bravo Company, 244th QM Battalion teammates.
“It was her idea, and she’s very brave,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jerome Stewart, Bravo Co. noncommissioned officer in charge after his team captured the first-place trophy in the competition that took place at a parking lot adjacent to C Avenue and Sisisky Boulevard.
The competition was organized into two categories. In the basic skills portion, 22-member teams were provided 4-6 minutes to execute basic drills without weapons using a space half the size of a football field. The freestyle category allowed teams up to 10 minutes to showcase their skills and creativity – with or without weapons.
Each performance featured precision movements and marching skills, hallmark Army traditions that are the basis for discipline and teamwork – good reasons to stage the event as a motivational break from the classroom environments, said Col. Mary Beth Taylor, commander, 23rd QM Bde.
“I remember when I was in basic training and AIT,” said the former enlisted Soldier. “We did the drill and ceremony competition and it was a good opportunity to build esprit de corps and really show off the unit’s teamwork and the discipline of its Soldiers.”
And show off they did, especially in the freestyle portion. Rifle twirling and tossing, high-stepping, and motivational sound-offs dominated the imagery along with the loud and boisterous crowd enthusiasm that commonly accompanies such competitive AIT events.
That set the stage for the Bravo Co. Bulldogs and its creative performance. Just a few minutes into the event, it had warmed the spotlight with a few distinctive movements that played to the crowd. At one point during the performance, several team members deliberately broke their rhythm, breaking off from a formation and moved into a tight circle. The stream of cheers from the crowd turned into chatters of uncertainty, creating a sense of drama and anticipation.
With five Soldiers stacking their weapons, the petite Jaques climbed the rifles and then positioned herself on top of weapons at nearly six feet in the air. To top it off, she stood at the position of port arms for at least 10 seconds with the calm and purpose of a Buckingham Palace sentry.
The crowd erupted in applause and cheers. Most rose to their feet, yelled and high-fived each other in admiration. It was the climax to what could be described as a creative and daring performance. Stewart said several factors were at play in winning the event.
“It took precision, discipline and a lot of motivation,” he said. “These Soldiers worked hard, and I appreciate that because they are a great group.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Kelly Jr., the brigade’s top enlisted Soldier, said there were plenty of memorable highlights for such an event.
“In my 25 years of service this is the first I witnessed a competition like this,” he said. “I was very impressed with the discipline and motivation the Soldiers displayed today.”
Second place was awarded to Echo Co., 266th QM Bn. Romeo Co., 262nd QM Bn. earned third place. Romeo Co. also earned the Spirit Award for the event.