Nebraska Stories| Drilling for Perfection

(rhythmic slapping, stomping) NARRATOR: Five minutes, all the hours of practice and more than a
century of tradition, all comes down to a
five-minute performance. LEADER: Order. Arms. (rhythmic clanging) NARRATOR: These
members of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Pershing Rifles Drill Team
choreograph every step they
take, every movement of their hands and every spin and
toss of their rifles. ZACHARY DAY: A lot of our
training comes
first with attention detail, with learning how to
march, regulation, work with a rifle. It’s a lot of little details. It can be really hard, take a lot of tedious work. NARRATOR: Zachary
Day has been immersed in the details of this program since he arrived on
campus as an ROTC cadet. He learned all about the
history of the Pershing Rifles, dating back to the early 1890’s and the man who started the
drill team, John J. Pershing. Pershing was a university
military science professor who would go on to lead
the US forces in Europe during World War One. Through the years,
the University of
Nebraska Rifle Team named after him would
be very successful, winning many competitions
against the growing number of other drill teams
across the country. But when Day arrived at UNL
the team had not performed in more than a decade. DAY: I came here and I was like, you guys don’t do drill? What? I was like, okay,
let’s fix this. This is a model of a
1903 as you can see. These are the ones– NARRATOR: Day and a
handful of others went to work to restart the program. They turned their
attention first to the Springfield 1903 rifles. DAY: I don’t know how
long they’ve been there but they were in
complete disrepair. I’d say only one of them was
actually able to be used. NARRATOR: Day put
about $300 into parts and was able to
repair the rifles. But with a drill team,
especially a new one performing such
difficult routines, those rifles hit the ground
again (rifle thudding) and again (rifle thudding) and again (rifle thudding). CADET: These are the practice rifles for a reason.
CADET: A lot of spin. Hey, an you go grab the
duct tape that’s over there? CADET: Yeah,
go grab the duct tape. NARRATOR: Many of the
fixes are made on the spot by members of the team. MARK WAGNER: It’s a lot of hard
work to try to fix them considering most of them don’t
really have pieces that are around anymore. Springfield 1903’s not
in production anymore. It’s a lot of money to try to
buy pieces or even find them so that’s why we’ve
tried to make our own and we do with what we got really. NARRATOR: And when
you’re spinning and tossing these rifles, they’re not the only
things that get beat up and they have the
scars to prove it. CADET:
You can’t really see it but there’s a big scratch
on my glasses, I was trying to do
one a couple weeks ago and the rifle got me in
the middle of my right eye. (chuckles) I got kinda stabbed
almost 20 minutes ago trying to do one of our moves. The rifle came down and
hit me right on the side. NARRATOR: Meghan Deprez
says the rifles can be rough and cut your hands but it’s all worth it for her. She’s one of just a few
females in the Pershing Rifles. MEGHAN DEPREZ:
You don’t see many female
Pershing riflemen so yeah, I think being a female in a
male-dominated thing is awesome and being a part of that and
changing military culture and leadership is amazing.
CADET: Ten, halt! NARRATOR: The routines the drill team members perform usually start with a
brainstorming session. CADET: Now if you would throw
me a blind toss right now and I threw him one right now and he threw that
one right now and see what I’m saying?
CADET: Monus, I’m with you. CADET:
So I was like this CADET: Oh boy. (team laughing) NARRATOR: The
idea is then tested through trial and err. CADET: Whoa,
straight for me Zach. NARRATOR: Often plenty
of trials and many errs. CADET: How’s that?
CADET: Just a little more spin. NARRATOR: Until
they get it just right. CADET:
Perfect, do it again. ANNOUNCER: Ladies and
gentlemen the Pershing Rifles! (audience applauding) NARRATOR: Of course,
getting it perfect at practice is not as difficult
as getting it perfect when you’re performing
in the spotlight with the crowd looking on. DAY: From
the time they say, “Now, introducing
Pershing Rifles,” the butterflies just
start flying (laughing) and it’s hard, your hands
are shaking and you’re like, oh man, I’m
remembering everything and then yeah you get done. It’s so much fun. It’s really a
gratifying experience. (footsteps pattering
rhythmically) (rifles thudding rhythmically)
(audience applauding) NARRATOR: An experience
just like the ones cadets had more than a century ago when
they learned leadership, discipline and how to spin a
rifle from John J. Pershing. DAY: It’s just honorable and
great to be able to spin a rifle and they’ve been doing
this forever and like the same rifle. Honestly it’s just kinda
like we’re his company. We wanna be the rest there is. We strive to be the best
company not just that we can be but the best company
in the country. We’re the national headquarters. It was started here, we wanna show that we belong. DEPREZ: I think
it’s really cool that Pershing himself was here. He’s such a great
leader in World War One and yeah, that
affects me everyday. I walk to my classes and look
at the sign outside that says Pershing Rifles and I think I’m a part of that. LEADER: Forward, march! (rifles smacking)

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