By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Two years later, Connor Hogan and Dawson Young can still vividly remember unpacking the dummy rifles they would become closely acquainted with.
“They were shipped in from another program and I remember thinking how cool they were,” said Hogan.
Since that day, the pair of McNary High School juniors has devoted a not insignificant amount of time to perfecting their armed drill routines, basically a marching performance that includes spinning and tossing the dummy rifles.
When Young first heard that an Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps was taking root at McNary, he was quick to badger Hogan into joining with him.
“During orientation, they told us there was an armed drill camp coming up, and we decided to go check it out,” Young said.
At the camp, Hogan and Young were introduced to the basic elements of armed drill performance. It starts with learning how to spin an eight-and-a-half pound, off-center rifle around the wrist.
“People think that it’s not that heavy, but then they pick it up,” said Hogan. “I think they really hooked us once they said we could do dual routines in competition. Then we were all in.”
Hogan and Young gradually began building their own routines, which now include aerials (throwing the rifles in the air while spinning), passing the arms behind their backs, and tossing the rifles back and forth between each other.
“The way we explain it is we take something we know and ask ourselves: how can we make this more dangerous? Or, what’s the dumbest thing we could do that would look cool?” said Hogan.
Through it all the biggest injuries have been cuts and bruises, but they’re willing to sacrifice a bit for their art.
“You spend a lot of time dropping the rifle and hitting yourself, but then you catch it and it pays off in that moment,” Young said.
Both young men spent five years in marching band before taking up unarmed drill performance and said the experience helps immensely as far as keeping time and rhythm. Executing a clean routine requires ample doses of both, but they don’t communicate audibly while performing.
“It’s the sound of the rifle hitting our hands. That’s how we know if we’re in sync,” said Young.
Young said the feeling of exhilaration after completing a difficult and flawless routine is what keeps him striving to improve, but both feed off the response of the audience.
“There’s a pressure that comes with performing and it lets people know about the JROTC program, but we want the oohs and ahhs. It’s a great feeling,” Hogan said.
Much of this year has been spent polishing up the things they are most familiar with, but they’ve still got some tricks up their sleeve.
“When we take the floor, we have to report in, it’s when we salute ask for permission to use the space. At the end, we have to report out. Right now, we’re working on a report out where I am spinning both rifles while Dawson is saluting,” Hogan said.