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                 The  ORIGIN

                    In  1976  and  1977,  the  Massachusetts  Wing  Drill  Team  was  the  Northeast  Region  Cadet  Competition Champion  under   the  command  of  Paul D.  Eldridge  Jr.  from  the  Quincy  Composite  Squadron.  The  team  placed  4th  in  the  National  Cadet  Competition  in  1976  and  3rd  in 1977. Unfortunately, after  the  two   unsuccessful  attempts  for  the  title  of  National  Champion,  the  team  fell  into  a  period  of  "down  time" .  Within  the  next  decade,  the Massachusetts  Wing  Drill  Team  would  not  place  better  than  2nd  in  the  Northeast  Region  Cadet  Competition.  After  their  dejection  at  the  National Cadet  Competition  in  1976  and  1977,  the  team  had  no  real  ambition  or  drive.  Year  after  year  they  would  go  to  the  region  competition  and  concede victories  to  New  York's  Bronx  Group  Drill  Team,   who  would  end  up  being  five  time  National  Champions.  This  New  York  team  was  unparelled  in  the world  of  cadet  competition.  They  started  the  Northeast  Region's  reign  of  the  National  Cadet  Competition.

                     But  like  all  other  good  things,  the  reign  came  to  an  end.  It  was  snapped  in  1989  by  a  team  known  as  the  New  Jersey  Dragon  Drill  Team. They  did  what  no  one  could  do.  They   finally  broke  through  the  steel  wall  that  New  York  had  set  up.  New  Jersey  ended  up  continuing  the dominance  of  the  Northeast   at  the  National  Cadet  Competition.  They  ended  up  being  six  time  National  Champions  and  had  a  three  year  NCC winning  streak  that  lasted  from  1992  to  1994.  But  their  reign,  like  New  York's,  would  soon  come  to  an  end.

                    At  the  time  when  the  Northeast  Region  Cadet  Competition  was  dominated  by  the  Dragons,  one  Massachusetts  Wing  cadet  stepped  up  to face  the  challenge.  Cadet  Captain  Barry  Dubois,  hailing  from  the  Essex  County  Composite  Squadron,  sought  to  find  Massachusetts  Wing's  finest.  The majority  of  the  1994  team  came  from  his  unit,  but  there  were  cadets  from  all  over  the  state.  The  team  did  not  even  have  enough  cadets   until two  months  before  the  1994  Region  Cadet  Competition.  In  the  end  however,  c/CAPT  Dubois  had  formed  a  stellar  team  that  would  refuse  to  be defeated.  Unfortunately,  the  team  was  still  not  good  enough,  as  they  only  placed  second  that  year.  However,  c/CAPT  Dubois  was  hailed  as  the Competition's  best  team  commander  and  the  female  fleetfoot  went  to  Katie  Schroth,  which  were  small,  but  significant  victories.

                    The  team  learned  many  things  from  their  defeat  in  1994.  One  of  the  greatest  lessons  learned  was  the  need  for  an  identity,  one  that
would  seperate  themselves  from  the  other  region  teams.  That  is  how  the  Massachusetts  Wing  Drill  Team  came  to  be  known  as  the  Lightning  Drill Team.  The  lightning  symbolizes  the  speed  at  which  the  team  showed,  coming  on  to  the  Northeast  Region  Cadet  Competition  scene  and  the  awe inspiring  power  of  the  Massachusetts  Wing  Drill  Team.  With  this  new  name,  Massachusetts  now  had  an  identity  that  allowed  the  team  to  stand head  and  shoulders  above  the  rest.

                     One  individual  on  the  1994  team  that  made  perhaps  some  of  the  greatest  advancements  for  the  drill  team  was  c/CAPT  Jason  Davidson. Davidson  studied  and  researched  the  New  York  and  New  Jersey  teams  and  began  learning  from  them.  He  then  instructed  the  team  on  the  things that  had  made  them  champions.  Because  of  him,  Lightning  made  leaps  and  bounds  in  the  way  they  trained  and  competed.  Armed  with  this newfound  knowledge,  c/CAPT  Davidson  led  the  1995  Lightning  Drill  Team  to  Competition  the  next  year.  The  team  felt  confident  that  they  could make  this  the  year  to  defeat  New  Jersey,  especially  since  they  had  12  returning  members,  joined  by  c/MSGT  Jack  Goguen,  c/FO  David  Bindoo, c/TSGT  James  Sullivan  and  c/CAPT  Jon  Mullaly.

                    At  the  1995  Northeast  Region  Cadet  Competition,  the  New  York  Drill  Team  tried  to  make  a  comeback  but  fell  to  New  Jersey  AND Massachusetts.  Massachusetts  had  only  beaten  them  by  1  point,  but  that  1  point  was  all  they  needed.  The  competition  went  well  for  the  team and  they  thought  that  they  had  finally  defeated  New  Jersey,  but  that  was  not  to  be  . . . . .  yet.  The  team  placed  second  in  almost  everything, placing  third  in  Volleyball ( beaten  by  NJ  and  NY ),  but FIRST in  Innovative  Drill !  Overall,  the  team  placed  2nd  that  year  with  two  fleetfoots  ( Dan Taylor  and  Katie  Schroth )  and  the  team  spirit  award,  but  now  they  had  even  more   motivation  to  train  even  harder  for  the  next  competition  year.

                     The  tide  was  set,  and  c/COL  Katie  Schroth  was  chosen  to  lead  the  1996  Lightning  Drill  Team  into  battle.  This  year  was  the  year.  The team  trained  and  worked  harder  than  any  other  in  its  history.  Drill  team  was  the  only  thing  on  everyone's  mind,  day  in  and  day  out.  Each  team member  ate,  drank   and  slept  Lightning.  The  '96  team  had  14  returning  members,  joined  by  newcomers  c/SSGT  Dave  Tyler  and  c/1LT  Tin  Nguyen.

                   Upon  arriving  at  the  1996  NER  Cadet  Competition,  the  team  knew  that  this  was  the  last  year  many  would  be  competing  and  so  they needed  to  win  it.  The  goal  of  the  team  was  to  dethrone  5  time  National  Champions  New  Jersey  and  to  become  the  4th  NER  drill  team  program  to win  the  NCC.  Entering  the  competition,  the  team  made  flawless  perfomances  in  the  drill  portion.  Entering  the  panel  bowl,  the  team  was  sure  it would  be  able  to  defeat  the  other  teams  and  take  1st,  which  they  DID!  The  team  narrowly  defeated  New  Jersey  by  1  question.  But  that's  all  it took.  Key  members  in  this  victory  were  c/1LT  Dan  Taylor,  c/CAPT  Jason  Davidson,  c/MSGT  Jason  Chapman,  and  c/COL  Katie  Schroth.   Next  was  the mile...

                    The  next  morning,  the  team  was  mentally  and  physically  prepared  for  the  mile  run.  They  tore  up  the  course,  setting  a  team  average  of 5:25 .  After  their  victorious  run,  the  team  fell  to  New  Jersey  in  volleyball  once  again.  But  the  competition  was  finally  over.  Now  all  that  remained  was  the  awards  ceremony.  The  team  was  highly  apprehensive  at  first,  but  1st  place  after  1st  place,  the  team  knew  they  had  finally  done  it.  They had  DEFEATED   the  Dragons,  they  were  going  to  National  for  the  first  time  since  1976!

                    When National came around two months later, the team was prepared to tackle any of the obstacles that stood in the way. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. Though the team was perhaps the best Massachusetts has ever fielded, it was still too unexperienced on the national level, as their primary goal for the team's formative years was to defeat New Jersey on the region level. The team did not practice to win National but to win Regions, which was it's downfall. Placing 4th consistently in the drill events, 5th in the panel quiz, and 7th in the Volleyball was too much. Coming out of the NCC with a disappointing 4th place finish and only three awards (Male/Female Fleetfoots and 1st place mile run), the team entered another of it's down times. The team
learned from the experience though, and was determined to go back to Alabama the next year.

                    At this time c/LT COL  Jon Mullaly was selected to be the team's newest commander, but what he had to face for the new year, was unlike anything anyone expected. All ready to go back down to National, no one expected the unexpected.  Half of the 1996 Lightning Drill Team left, going either to college or the military. The team was left with only 8 returning members and a handful of fresh cadets with absolutely no knowledge of the Cadet Competition or Drill Team. But with the assistance of Cadet Mullaly and senior advisor Captain Mark Schroth, the group of cadets that came to the practices became a team. They did not become one easily, as the early months were plagued with problems. At first there were not enough cadets, then, not every was as dedicated to the
team as they should have been. But in the end, things turned out. Though this new team was unexperienced, they were ready to go against New Jersey in the 1997 Region Competition.

                     In the competition, the MAWG Drill Team performed better than anyone had expected, but once again, their performance was not good enough as they fell to a  2nd place finish with only one 1st place trophy in the In-Ranks Inspection. The team suffered second place finishes in the rest of the events with an embarrasing 4th place finish in the panel quiz, an event they had won the year before. The team was not dissapointed however, only encouraged to train harder for the next year. That year, Cadet Mullaly and the newly appointed 1998 MAWG Drill Team commander c/LT COL  James Sullivan went down to the National Cadet Competition in order to learn from it, and learn they did. They came back with even more knowledge about the NCC than before. New Jersey
ended up winning the NCC that year and earning the title of National Champions once again. The team used that to their advantage however, studying how and what they did to win. The 1998 team would be the most prepared and knowledgable team in the history of the Lightning Drill Team.

                Going into the 1998 Region Cadet Competition, the Team felt confident about their skills and knew they would bring home the Championship. This team was highly motivated and did the job they came to do. The team dominated all areas of the competition, taking all firsts except in Standard (2nd) and Physical Fitness (3rd). This was also the first time in history that the MAWG team took a first in volleyball, an event previously dominated by New Jersey. The Panel Quiz was no challenge as key performances were turned in by c/LT COL Mickey Condon, c/LT COL James Sullivan, c/COL Tin Nguyen, and c/MSGT Pete Amaral. At the final awards ceremony, there was excitement in the air as the team got first after first. Then it was over, the team was once again Northeast Region Cadet Competition Champions! They would be going back down to Alabama in December to vie for the National Championship.

                    During the period between the Region Competition and National, the team worked harder than ever. They worked towards perfecting every aspect of the Competition. They ran, they drilled, they studied and played volleyball like they never have. This would be the most prepared team that Massachusetts would ever send into competition. The standards were set, and all had to meet them.

                    Time for the 1998 National Cadet Competition rolled around and their was an air of excitement. While competing, the team felt as if they had turned in a sub-par performance in the innovative drill, but felt that their standard was one of the best. The Panel Quiz went extremely well as they won round after round, eventually tieing for 2nd place. In this eventuality, there was a tie breaker between the Northeast Region and the Great Lakes Region. The Panel Quiz team selected composed of the 3 best on the team, c/2dLT Pete Amaral, c/LTCOL James Sullivan and c/COL Tin Nguyen. This team was not successful howeverand the team fell to 3rd place in this event. The next day, the mile run turned in some outstanding and surprising results. Coming in first for the team andeventually winning the National Male Fleetfoot was c/SrAMN Ryan Murphy. Volleyball went well, but was still not good enough as the team only turned in a 4th place finish.

                    At the banquet, the team felt antsy and knew that they still had work to do after this season. The final results were disappointing but at the same time surprising. Overall, the team tied for 3rd place with the Southeast Region, but fell to 4th on the inspection tie breaker. But victories had were in the 1st Place Mile, 2nd Place Written Exam (which was unheard of for a Massachusetts Team) and a Male Fleetfoot. Determined to win that National Championship once and for all, the team anticipated the next drill team year.

                    The 1999 year would be a hard year to overcome and at the helm once again was c/LT COL Sullivan. Losing some of its members to the military andcollege, it was thought that finding good replacements for them would be close to impossible. With only a core of 10 or so members at the beginning of the summer, it was thought that a team would not be put together in time to win. But with strong recruiting efforts by the members of the team, the number slowly increased so that by Region there was a total of 16 competing members and 5 support staff members. Practices with a full team began in early September, the latest practices had ever begun, but with 11 returning members from the previous year, things went smoothly. By Region, the team was more than ready.

                    The 1999 team entered the NER Competition like a Tidal Wave, sweeping the competition away. The first day progressed smoothly, with the team performing well in drill, written testing and panel quiz. Key perfomances this year in the panel quiz were turned in by c/CAPT Pete Amaral, c/MSGT Ryan Murphy, c/CAPT Brian Wayland, and c/COL Tin Nguyen. The next day also went well as the team ran and played volleyball extremely well. By the time the Awards Ceremony came about, the team felt already, that they had achieved victory. The team won, SWEEPING, taking firsts in all 7 events, something unheard of for the Massachusetts Wing. This team  far exceed the performance of last year's team and would be the most prepared team to enter into the National Cadet Competion for 1999.

                    Right off the bat, there were problems however. Some team members had to leave the team for various reasons, but luckily, past members of the team were recruited to fill in the missing voids, making the team even stronger than it previously was. Changes to the practicing regimen were made in order to prepare everyone to compete on a National Championship level. It was to be ensured that everyone knew what was to be expected at the NCC. The team members were fully briefed on everything and practices were more intense than ever before in the team's 6 year history. The goal was to make everyone on the team equal in strengths. Everyone shared the same goal...to win the National Cadet Competition.

                    A new factor was added to the Drill Team program, that of cadet staff members. Alongside the team commander, there would now be 3 element leaders. These 3 element leaders were considered to be among the best on the team and the most experienced. The 3 chosen were c/CAPT Peter Amaral, c/LT COL Mickey Condon, and c/COL Tin Nguyen. This change in the program increased the efficiency in which training was conducted and helped to improve the quality of the team. This was not the only major change however. Weeks prior to the 1999 NCC, the team received training help from members of the old New York Wing Bronx Group Drill Team. These men, Maj. Jesus Figueroa, USAF and Maj. Ed Rabassa, CAP, were key in the process of preparing the team for National. What they had to teach was encompassed in 3 weekends of hard practice. The team was now ready to take on Nationals.

                    Nationals rolled around and it was time to strut our stuff. The written test was first and that went off without a hitch as the team felt it went very well. The drill events went very well the next day and the other teams knew that they were in for a fight. Later that afternoon Lightning once again defended its National mile championship as they ran a 5:17 average led by 2 time Fleetfoot c/2dLT Ryan Murphy who ran a 4:39. On a high from their first guaranteed first place the team entered the panel quiz with high hopes of capturing another first. That was not to be that night however as the team suffered a loss to Southwest Region in the last round, falling to a record of 6 - 1, taking only 2nd. That did not decrease morale however, as it is the best showing NER has made in that event in the past 6 years. Volleyball was held the next day. Off to a good start, the team was 2 - 0 heading into their match with Southeast Region, the defending Volleyball champions. The game carried on roughly, but by the time the team regrouped, it was too late. They went on to win the next 2, but fell to Great Lakes Region due to poor play. The last game was against Southwest and would decide whether the team would tie for 2nd place or take 3rd. They won. It was the most exhilirating and outstanding game the team had played yet. The team was poised, controlled and confident. They won 12 - 9. The competition was over! The team had ended it on a good note...and they looked forward to the banquet.

                    Time for the banquet came and everyone was nervous. Would this be the year? The awards started and the team won standard drill! This was the first time this NER team had won a drill event at National! But the team took a disappointing 3rd in innovative. The other events went as planned. 2nds in Volleyball, Panel Quiz and another 1st in the mile. The written test was announced...and it was over. The team had placed 3rd in the test. Not good enough to win it. Overall, Lightning placed 3rd because of a stunning and shocking 5th place in inspection. This year's dream was dashed...but what does not kill us...only makes us stronger...

                    With the new rules concerning the cadet competition, the NER competition was moved to May and NCC to June at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Despite heavy losses from last year's team, the new team commander, c/LTCOL Peter Amaral managed to scrape together a young and highly inexperienced team. Working with a new team with little senior cadet leadership, they trained hard, getting ready for the Region Competition. The inexperience and youth of the team would be a huge factor in the way the team would compete this year, but the training regimen established was strong, speeding along the growth of the rookies.

                    Going into Region, no one knew what to expect. Competing this year were New Hampshire and a new New York team. The first day went well, drilling the competition into the ground. Little mistakes were made in all of the drill but the team still managed to perform the best innovative routine they had yet to date. Though the new team was inexperienced, they drilled with the confidence of the experienced as if they owned the drill floor, true professionals. Next was the panel quiz. The team was rusty. They were slow on the buzzers and answers, and some of the most basic concepts eluded them, but they still managed to defeat both teams by over 200 points. They needed heavy work before returning to the forefront for National.

                    The next day held more domination in the mile and volleyball. Overall, the team competed well, though still not up to par to previous teams. The youth, inexperience and undeveloped athletic prowess of the team showed itself, but where there is a weakness, is a dormant strength. c/MAJ Jennifer Walsh earned her first Fleet Foot, a personal goal she had set for herself. The awards ceremony only affirmed what everyone had thought all along, the Lightning Drill Team reigned supreme again. The team swept all 7 first places including garnering another Highest Written Exam Score by c/LTCOL Peter Amaral and a Female Fleetfoot.

                    Armed with the knowledge of what they needed to do, this would be NER's year...to regain the National Title, number 13...and the first for Massachusetts.

                    With the Region Competition over with, the team now needed to focus on the NCC. Coming back to assist the team as a cadet training instructor was c/COL Tin Nguyen. His added experience and knowledge would prove a valuable asset in the team's preparation.

                    The innovative drill routine was revamped and modified from it's original form, adding more variability and added showmanship. An intense concentration was given the events that the team knew they could control, the panel quiz, written exam, the mile, and volleyball. The 2 practices before competition the aid of LtCol Rabassa and Maj Figueroa was once again enlisted. The assistance of these 2 knowledgeable experts, c/COL Nguyen and the determination of the team and staff made the preparations for the NCC final. Though the team was young and inexperienced, they were ready.

                    A few days before leaving for competition, Cadet Amaral learned he passed the Spaatz, bringing an air of good luck on the team and their upcoming challenge. The time for the competition rolled around and the team found themselves at the Air Force Academy ready to compete. The mile run was the first event. This was one event that the team was unsure of. The altitude of the academy combined with various injuries gave the team doubt on their ability to perform. This team not being the fastest team ever fielded by Massachusetts, they were still confident the placed top 2 at the conclusion of the event. The next day brought the drill and knowledge portions. All the drill events went smoothly, the team garnering many good comments from the Honor Guard judges. The written exam was next and it was agreed upon afterwards that the exam was of no respectable challenge. Later in the evening, panel quiz went off without a hitch as the team was led by c/COL Amaral, c/COL Condon, c/CAPT Casey, and c/MAJ Schellhammer to a first place finish! With the conclusion of panel quiz, the team felt very confident and excited for the remaining event...volleyball.

                    The next morning volleyball started early as they had a full day of competition. Competing well, the team suffered only one loss to the Middle East Region, touted as being comparable to the game against the Southwest Region at the previous NCC. They placed second in 1999, and they placed 2nd again in 2001. The competition was finally over. Now all that came was the banquet and awards...would this be the year?

                    That evening, all doubts were washed away. Event after event, the NER team garnered the awards. They placed 1st or 2nd in every event. It was done...the Massachusetts Wing Lightning Drill reigned supreme as the National Cadet Competition Champions! This happened in the 7th year of the team's existence...lucky number 7. A goal that was set so many years ago, has finally been met. With the winning of this NCC, the Northeast Region garners its 13th Championship...the most out of any region. This also marks the 4th program to win the NCC from the NER...the Massachusetts Wing Lightning Drill Team following after the New York Wing Bronx Group Drill Team, the New York Wing Long Island Group Drill Team and the New Jersey Wing Dragon Drill Team.

                    The Lightning Drill Team...carrying on the Northeast Region tradition of excellence...
 
 

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