members of the West High NJROTC team pose for a photo at the National Championships

MANCHESTER – West’s NJROTC marksmanship team made a successful repeat trip to Nationals, held this year in Sandy, Utah. While the competition went well, the one thing the team won’t want to repeat is the actual trip out West. 

The squad finished 21st overall at the Navy JROTC National Championships, held from Feb. 2-4. This follows a 24th overall finish from last year’s Nationals. The year-over-year improvement came despite extensive travel delays, with the cadets arriving just in time for a practice session. The six cadets, all competing at Nationals for the first time, were positive about the experience.  

“Overall, it was a great experience,” said Derrick Dixon, who is also the Unit Commanding Officer. “Although the travel was a headache to say the least, it was a lot of fun. We got to spend a lot of time together as a team and really got to know each other a lot better. It was a great experience of what it was like to be that far west for the first time, the people were very friendly and welcoming. I wish I could do it again.”

Bumpy ride

The travel headaches started when the team’s initial flight on Tuesday, Jan. 31 was delayed, leading to them missing a connecting flight. They were forced to spend the night in Charlotte, and the next day, Feb. 1, they caught a flight to Newark, NJ. From there, they flew to Phoenix where they were told the soonest they could get to Utah would be Saturday afternoon – after the competition was finished. Undeterred, instructor Capt. Arthur Stauff rented a van and drove through the night, arriving in Sandy, Utah, on Thursday afternoon. Stauff said the cadets took the challenges in stride.

“The students were great throughout this entire ordeal,” Stauff said. “We stopped for food where we could, and they slept in the van.”

In addition to Dixon, the squad included Tonykus Hebert, Lanna Bergeron, Maura Doyle, William Donovan and Connor Bourgeois. None of the team members were on the squad that went to Nationals last year, so it was a whole new experience. Stauff said the setup for Nationals, using digital targets, is the same as what West currently has in place, so he felt students were better prepared. Still, there’s no matching the environment of live competition, and Stauff said the squad learned from the experience. 

“Lessons were learned about what we could have done better,” Stauff said. “Mental preparation is critical because the stress is so high.”

All-new squad

Since only one of the team members is a senior, much of the squad can return for the competition next year. We asked some squad members to share their thoughts on the competition and trip:

“It was great,” said Tonykus Hebert, who was team captain. “The travel experience wasn't very good, but that was pretty much it for the bad stuff. I got to experience so many new things along the way. The main experience was my first flight. As a team, I think we had a lot of fun.”

“I enjoyed the trip,” said Conner Bourgeois. “There were some flight problems but overall the trip was a blast. The team got to spend a lot of time together and we shared a good laugh over some card games at the hotel. The competition was very kind and professional towards my team and was a very good learning experience. I look forward to doing it next year.”

“The experience was mixed for me,” said William Donovan. “Getting to Utah was a nightmare and I feel like my situational awareness was non-existent for most of the trip. I loved the food, that was most certainly the best part of the trip. The actual competition was good too. I felt focused and ready during the competition and I'm happy with how the team did. Overall, it wasn't too bad and I'd definitely go again.”

Thanks to sponsors

Marine Corps league donation

The team was able to take part in the competition thanks to the support of a number of sponsors, which include:

  • US Navy JROTC Program Office
  • Washington Lodge #61 of Masons 
  • Blue Knights Foundation  
  • Todd & Rene Littlefield 
  • Shawn M. Carboni 
  • Nashua Fish and Game Association
  • Robert & Patricia Veinot 
  • Matthew Chisholm 
  • John & Nicole Stuhlmiller 
  • George & Jill Smith 
  • James Langevin 
  • Gary Barriault 
  • David Lavoie 
  • Martin Harman 
  • Mark Vincent 
  • Marc & Sally-Ann Trepanier 
  • VFW Post 8214  
  • MOAA (Military Officers Association of America)  
  • Edward & Elizabeth Rogerson 
  • Richard Anaganost  
  • Granite State Marine Corps League #542 (donation presentation pictured at right)