Palm Bay High School Marine Corps JROTC Rifle Team Among Best in Nation
By Maria Sonnenberg // February 10, 2020
Palm Bay High is only Marine Corps JROTC in Brevard – and one of only 14 in the state
Rifle Team Will Compete in MCJROTC National Service Championships February 16
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The largest collection of straight shooters in the county are located at Palm Bay Magnet High School, home of a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps rifle team that is among the top in the nation.
Of the 110 cadets enrolled in Palm Bay’s Marine Corps JROTC, only nine participate in the rifle team, but they are an elite bunch who rarely miss their mark.
It warrants notice that only one of the nine cadets is male.
“The girls can really shoot,” said retired Sergeant Major Roy DeYoung, instructor and rifle team coach.
Palm Bay’s JROTC is unique in more than their ratio of boys to girls.
“We are the only Marine Corps JROTC in the county and one of only 14 in the state,” said De Young, a 20-plus veteran of the Corps who was deployed to Iraq three times.
Created by the National Defense Act of 1916, JROTC is a federal program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces operated in high schools – and even in some middle schools – across the United States and at U.S. military bases abroad.
Although many of the cadets enroll in the military or pursue higher education through its older sibling, ROTC, the program was never intended to be a recruitment tool.
Instead, its purpose is to instill in students the core values of citizenship, service to country and personal responsibility. Five of the seven branches of uniformed services maintain a JROTC program, funded by the Department of Defense.
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Within JROTC, rifle teams are one of the most popular opportunities for cadets to shine. And Palm Bay’s rifle team is small by necessity, maxing out at 12 for a very specific reason.
“Our shooting range only has 12 target points,” explained DeYoung.
From sophomores to seniors, the cadets are extremely focused on target practice.
“They practice every day, sometimes twice a day,” said DeYoung.
Marksmanship is an integral part of the Marine Corps JROTC curriculum. With an emphasis on safety, the MCJROTC Marksmanship curriculum allows cadets to develop pride and a sense of accomplishment as they become more proficient with their marksmanship skills.
“All Marines are expert marksmen,” said DeYoung.
The Daisy 853CM, an air rifle specifically designed exclusively for MCJROTC, is the weapon of choice for target practice. Cadets qualify and compete using the Three-Position Air Rifle Shooting standards, which requires very steady hands in shooting while prone, standing and kneeling.
“Small mistakes can make a big difference in target practice,” said DeYoung.
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Three-Position Air Rifle Shooting is the most popular and fastest-growing form of shooting sports competition for youth of high school age or younger. Two different Three-Position Air Rifle events are available. Precision Air Rifle is modeled after Olympic-style shooting and allows the use of specialized target rifles and equipment.
Sporter Air Rifle is designed for new competitors or those who desire to compete with a minimum of equipment and expense. In both types of shooting, competitors fire at targets from meters away in three different positions: prone, standing and kneeling. Sporter and Precision Air Rifle classes may also be combined into one “open” class.
Whether shooting from the ground, kneeling or standing, the Palm Bay rifle team has been extremely successful under DeYoung’s leadership. The team qualified for MCJROTC National Service Championships in 2015, 2018, 2019 and have again done so for 2020.
They’ve traveled the country to test their shooting mettle, including competition at the MCJROTC National Service Championships in Anniston, Alabama, and Chandler, Arizona.
On Feb. 16, the team heads back to Anniston to tackle competition again.
Team member Annebelle Knowles placed seventh in the nation out of more than 1,500 shooters in the MCJROTC JROTC Postal Match, a qualifier for the 2020 Service Championships.
The team placed 15th overall out of 148 teams across the nation in this match, earning them a place in this years’ Service Championships. They also qualified and were invited to compete in this 2020 U.S. Army Junior National Air Rifle Competition at Ft. Benning, Georgia, earlier this year.
“Only the top 30 Teams in the Nation are invited to compete in this match out of nationwide regional qualifiers, and although we did not place in the top three, we performed very well,” said DeYoung.
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Several other JROTC’s in the county also do well in rifle competitions, including Merritt Island and Cocoa Beach High Schools, but when it comes to snagging the Superintendent’s Cup, awarded to the county champion team, Palm Bay is way ahead of the pack.
“Palm Bay Air Rifle Team has claimed this title six out of the seven years of this match history,” said DeYoung. “We lost only once, to Merritt Island in 2018.”
The students have nothing but praise for the team experience. Being a part of this team has changed my life in many ways,” said junior Annabelle Knowles.
“Everyone on this team comes from different backgrounds, but we all share one thing in common and that is to strive to win. I wouldn’t trade my rifle team family for the world.”
Last year, senior Becky Porhammer decided to get out of her comfort zone and enroll in JROTC.
“Rifle team has become part of my life now and it has added so much to it,” she said.
“When I shoot, it gives me a chance to re-center myself when life throws me off balance and it has taught me that hard work pays off. Most importantly it has brought me closer to people I otherwise would hardly know. Everyone has contributed to bringing me out of my shell and I am so thankful for it. When I graduate I will look back at my year in rifle team and remember it has one of the best years in my high school career.”
For Alexis Nava, also a senior, the rifle team “is not just a team but a family and we push each other every day good or bad to be better.”
Team captain Galletea Gowen adds that the team has provided her some lessons valuable for the rest of her life.
“Rifle team teaches you that to appreciate the good and the bad and to strive to make yourself better,” he said.
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