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The JROTC Color Guard at Kubasaki High School, from left, Joshua Berardo, Jessica Girard, Dennis Gonzalez and Vince McClure, practices in preparation for the the National High School Drill Team Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., beginning May 1. The 15-member team, the only DODDS representative, leaves for Florida on Saturday.
The JROTC Color Guard at Kubasaki High School, from left, Joshua Berardo, Jessica Girard, Dennis Gonzalez and Vince McClure, practices in preparation for the the National High School Drill Team Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., beginning May 1. The 15-member team, the only DODDS representative, leaves for Florida on Saturday. (Mark Rankin / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Kubasaki High’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps drill team members are hoping three’s the charm.

After taking first place in the Challenge Division of the National High School Drill Team Championships in 2002 and 2003, they’re shooting to capture the Master’s Division this May in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The Kubasaki JROTC team is the only Department of Defense Dependents School to participate in the competition, which will feature 153 teams from 39 states and Puerto Rico. To make it to Daytona, team members raised more than $32,000.

“These kids have been practicing hard since September for this; they’re primed,” said a beaming Larry McNair, a retired Marine master sergeant who coached them through the months of practice, averaging some 20 hours per week.

“Our kids are top-five material,” he said, indicating they’re among the nation’s best. “If we get the right drills to perform we’ll come out on top.”

But just getting there has been a challenge, he said.

“They worked hard, drilling and earning the money to go,” he said. “They raised $19,000 on their own from bake sales.”

The rest of the money was donated by various individuals and organizations within Okinawa’s American community.

“One man alone donated $7,000,” McNair said. The donor wished to remain anonymous.

Other organizations, such as the Headquarters and Service Battalion Association of camps Foster and Lester, which donated $2,000, also contributed.

“This is a good cause,” said Staff Sgt. Gabriela Parker, treasurer of the association. “We try to make sure the members of our association give something back to the families on Foster and Lester and the Kubasaki drill team is an important part of our community.”

The team leaves for Daytona on Saturday and will get six days of rest before the competition May 1 and May 2.

“One of the biggest things they’ll have to overcome is jet lag,” McNair said. “They’ll be competing at a time when they’re usually in bed.”

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