Madison County High School Army JROTC Wins First State Championship

Authored by: 1SG (R) Francisco E. Ramey
Photos by: 1SG (R) Francisco E. Ramey

“We did it:” JROTC named 2024 state drill champions

Madison County High School’s Army JROTC is a relatively new program but is already seeing success with leadership from dedicated instructors and some of the most committed and highly motivated Cadets. In less than three years since the start of the program, the JROTC has captured its very first state drill championship title in the armed female squad division, as well as state runner-up in the unarmed female squad division.

Cadet Drill Commander Gizele Collins led the squads to victory. The championship team included Cadets Carmen Denova-Antonio, Brandy Wood, Saory Lopez-Gomez, Ava Grace-Smith, Say Bo, and Lindy Wilson. Other Cadets in the program include Chantae Williamson, Serenity Pittman, Adam Levi, Daniella Huato-Morales, Sherlyn Denova-Antonio, and Ben Bracken. First Sergeant Francisco Ramey coaches the drill team.


“I was born for this. All I have to say is that First Sergeant saw something in me that I did not even know existed. He trained and prepared all of us for these situations. When we arrived I told him ‘that I was not ready,’ and he told me yes I was. After going back and forth for about 10 times he said, ‘Okay be ready to perform at the next drill competition.’ I was so relieved and not even ten seconds later he came back and nicely said ‘Get on the drill pad; you’re doing it.’ Needless to say, I placed third and called my mom and told her ‘Look at what he made me do as I bawled with my first drill meet trophy.’ Look at us now. We all share this accomplishment. The crew plus two all day.”

Cadet Drill Commander Gizele Collins, Sophomore

“Where do I start? I can’t be more than excited to say that after being on the drill team for three years and being the only ‘true blue’ left on the team, we made it to be state champs! Nothing can define my excitement and love I have for the team. Being able to see us grow as a team and develop warms my heart. The first year, the drill team made ‘herstory’ which shocked people and made onlookers take notice. Now, we’re proud to say that staying humble can show you what we’re really made out of. Being the head drill commander doesn’t mean I get to tell everyone what to do. It means I’m obligated to set the example for the team displaying leadership traits preached by our instructors. I’m so proud to say that the Madison County High School JROTC Drill Team has brought the best out of me and has exposed me on how to navigate the networking circles of communicating effectively with people and being a better leader. Nothing can compare to this MC team. No matter what happens we still stick together through thick and thin which is something not every team can say. This team is definitely going to be in my heart forever! Hoah!”

Cadet Command Sergeant Major Carmen Denova-Antonio, Senior Drill Commander, Senior

“After all the extensive practice and grueling drill meets, I can finally say, ‘we’ve made it.’ The almost two years that I’ve been a member of the drill team. I’ve been filled with many ups and downs, but the laughter and abundant joy we’ve experienced has made it all worthwhile. It’s safe to say that I’ve found a family outside of my own. One that I can count on and go to in times of need. First Sergeant has taught me lessons I probably would have never learned had I not stepped foot in his classroom and I am very thankful for that. This season has already been revolutionary and I can’t wait to see what we’ve yet to accomplish.”

Cadet Captain Ava Grace-Smith, Armed/Unarmed Platoon Drill Commander for Individual Exhibition, Sophomore

“I am a first-year Cadet at the MCHS JROTC program. As soon as I came into the program this year, my instructors made me feel at home, as well as the other people in the program. My instructor soon invited me on one of their trips to Tuskegee Flight Academy, being one of the nine Cadets asked to attend. This immediately made me want to become more and more involved, joining the drill team and making our way to be the first-ever JROTC state drill champions. Overall, this program has turned me into a more involved, adaptable person, and it’s only my first year.”

Cadet Private First-Class Benjamin Bracken, Unarmed Drill Commander, Freshman

“Doing drill is something I never saw myself doing. I never expected to become a commander as a freshman and learning commands in less than three weeks. I made new friends with the people on the drill team and I never thought that I would care about a team this much. I always knew becoming a drill commander would be hard, having to learn 51 commands in such a short period of time made me realize how dedicated you have to be. I’m proud to be part of Madison County’s JROTC Drill Team.”

Cadet Private Saory Lopez-Gomez, Freshman

“I just provided the guidance and the mission and they executed flawlessly. I could not have asked for a better group of Cadets known as the crew plus two. Thank you for the phenomenal support from BOE members; district leaders (Mr. Williams, Dr. Goodroe, and Ms. Wommack), school administrators (Dr. Epps, both Mr. Berrymans, and Ms. Howard and Mr. Bryant); support staff Ms. Walker, Ms. Jordan, Ms. Holliman, Ms. Herring, Mr. Terry and staff and all of the cafeteria staff; Ms. Roberson; MSG Ward; SFC Williams; the Denova-Antonio’s; the Wilson’s; the Wood’s; the Smith’s; Mrs. Adam; my battle buddy Colonel Robert Stuart; and last but not least, Mrs. S. Ramey for letting me continue playing little Army. In under three short years with all of your support, we did it! Strike hard; strike deep!”

1SG (R) Francisco E. Ramey