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Rifle squad finishes third in national drill meet

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The University of North Georgia (UNG) Blue Ridge Rifles took third place overall in the Mardi Gras Invitational Drill Meet in February. The unit also took second place in Platoon Exhibition, less than half a point behind winner Texas A&M.

Four senior military colleges, including UNG, three service academies, and an additional 20 college and university ROTC rifle units competed in the event, hosted annually by Tulane University's Naval ROTC program.

Cadet LTC Mathew Tyree, a senior from Orange Park, Fla., who commands the UNG Blue Ridge Rifles, said years of training and months of early-morning and afternoon practices paid off for the unit.

"I couldn't have been more pleased," Tyree said. "It's been four years since this unit competed at the national level, so none of us had been to the Mardi Gras competition. Even though we didn't get first place, the confidence the unit showed was excellent. They worked as a team and really built each other up throughout the competition."

Mardis Gras meet
UNG's Blue Ridge Rifles placed third overall in the recent
Mardi Gras Invitational Drill Meet.

The meet consists of seven events that test cadets' confidence, attention to detail and discipline – the key characteristics for a quality soldier and a solid member of the Blue Ridge Rifles, Tyree said. The Blue Ridge Rifles hold tryouts each fall semester. Members are expected to grow in ability and knowledge and move into leadership positions in the unit, which often coincides with increasing responsibility in the Corps of Cadets.

As drillmaster for the Blue Ridge Rifles, Cadet MSG Alex Harvie of Grayson, Ga., is responsible for training and creates the unit's routines. Next year, Harvie will be unit commander and Cadet SSG Cody Waits of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., will move into the drillmaster role.

"I'm very excited about it, but it definitely will be a challenge because next year we'll have to recruit a large number of freshmen to fill out the ranks," Harvie said. "My participation in this unit for three years certainly has been a big factor in my growth as a leader and in my overall character."

One of the unit's newest members is Cadet PFC James Howse, a freshman from Stuart, Fla., who became interested in the Blue Ridge Rifles as a way to gain experience in leadership. House was a last-minute replacement at the Mardi Gras meet.

"I got thrown into the exhibition and I thought 'This is the real deal now!' When we actually went out there to perform, I was definitely on edge, but as soon as we did that first maneuver and we sounded so together and so crisp, I knew that we had this," House said.

Tyree, who graduates with a physics degree and commissions as a second lieutenant in May, said he'll miss the unit that has been his life for four years, but knows the experience he's gained will help his military career.

"It's been a great benefit, especially being the commander of the unit, because it has been 24-7 and I've had to deal with unit members' real-life issues," he said. "It's not just spinning a weapon, this is real-life leadership and it really teaches you to be a disciplined officer."

The Blue Ridge Rifles, a specialty unit of the university's Corps of Cadets, was created in 1950 and renamed Blue Ridge Rifles in 1958 to honor a group of Dahlonega volunteers who fought during the Civil War. UNG is one of six senior military colleges in the country and is designated The Military College of Georgia and a state leadership institution.

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