Caesar Rodney High School's Junior ROTC drill squad took top honors at a recent competition in New Castle.

When it comes to precision, teamwork and espirit de corps, Caesar Rodney High School’s Junior ROTC has it all squared away.

Members of the school’s Reserve Officer Training Corps marched off with top honors at the inaugural Blue Hen JROTC Drill Competition, held Jan. 18 at the Delaware Air National Guard Base, New Castle.

The Corps’ 21-member drill team earned the recognition by placing first in half of the six competitive categories. William Penn High School took second place, with Middletown High School earning third-place honors.

The competition was hosted by the Air Force ROTC 128th Cadet Wing out of the University of Delaware.

“For a first-time event, there really was a great turnout,” said retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jay Wedel, aerospace science instructor at Caesar Rodney. “A lot of people came to see what it was all about.”

Wedel knows something about what’s needed to earn such recognition for this type of competition: a five year veteran of the Air Force Honor Guard, he participated in several hundred military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery as well as funeral services for President Ronald Reagan.

Wedel puts the high schoolers through their paces with a tough regimen that starts at 6 a.m. every school day and lasts almost two hours. The cadets learn about teamwork, following orders and how to anticipate each other’s moves.

“You can take 21 people and have them do anything,” Wedel said. “But to have 21 people move as one, that really takes discipline and sacrifice.”

And it’s not easy.

“As we say, when you drill, it’s meant to look good, not feel good,” he said.

The nine participating drill teams came from schools all over Delaware and one in Maryland.

The Caesar Rodney corps took first place honors in Armed Exhibition, where they perform while carrying nine-pound facsimile rifles; Armed Regulation, where they march to a scripted drill sequence while carrying the weapons; and Unarmed Regulation, where they performs a planned sequence of steps without the weapons.

The team also took part in uniform inspections and an unarmed exhibition drill, with a four-person contingent marching as part of the color guard competition.

Wedel noted CR’s Corps even has impressed his successors in the Air Force Honor Guard, who reviewed them at Dover Air Force Base in 2013, as well as members of the U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard, some of whose members guard the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington.

Several area schools also have requested CR cadets help train members of their own drill teams, Wedel said.

Students who take part in the drill teams have a special sort of camaraderie, Wedel said, and the discipline they learn carries over to life away from the drill pad.

“When kids join us, we’ve been told their parents can see a difference in them, just from they way they stand,” he said. “And it’s not just that. They get involved with their communities, they get involved in the school.”

“Our kids are extremely proficient and they take extreme pride in what they do.”