FAIRFAX, Va. (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard beat out all other services in a drill competition April 26 at the George Mason University Field House in Fairfax, Va., winning the 2009 Joint Service Drill Team Competition Trophy.
In its second year, the competition pitted the Ceremonial Guard's Drill team against their counterparts from the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.
"This is a good way for us to represent the Ceremonial Guard and the United States Navy, [and it] shows that we can put together a team [from 10 people] and win against the other services," said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Michael Sykes.
According to Sykes, the Ceremonial Guard routine is more complex than others displayed by the other services. Whereas other services concentrated the majority of their routine on marching and removed the bayonets from their rifles at times, the Ceremonial Guard presented spinning and throwing of their rifles with bayonets fixed.
"The soloist is the point man at the very front," said Sykes, who performed these duties at the competition. "My solo consisted of spinning the rifle behind my back and spinning it between my legs. There are four soloists in our command, but only one [of those] gets to do their solo during the performance."
The Ceremonial Guard was graded in eight areas, including precision, showmanship, variety, originality and flow.
One of the graded areas was "level of difficulty". For part of the Ceremonial Guard's 11-minute performance, a new element was added this year -- Sykes was blindfolded while throwing and catching a rifle with fixed bayonet.
"The Army removed their bayonets and gloves for the passing of the rifles, but bayonets were attached at all times during our presentation," said Chief Gunner's Mate (GMC) Jonathan Davis. "The [blindfolded] individual was shown throwing a bayoneted rifle into the air behind his back and catching the rifle dropping into a kneeling position. And behind him he has eight people doing the same procedure [while seeing]."
Sykes said the portion of the presentation in which he was blindfolded displayed a significant level of trust and the ability to work as a team.
The precision executed by the Ceremonial Guard at the competition doesn't come easily. Sykes said when they are not performing at ceremonies or providing honors at funerals the Sailors in the unit practice for at least eight hours a day. Even on days when they do perform at ceremonies and funerals, they practice for at least four hours.
"The [level of competition] was pretty high, and the Air Force brought a crisper team than they had last year," Davis said. "If the Marines had shown up we would have had very stiff competition, but overall the level of competition and difficulty was much better than last year."
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