Pershing Rifles named nation's Best Overall Company

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Pershing Rifles named nation's Best Overall Company

Pershing Rifles at game
Justin Mohling | University Communication
Pershing Rifles march down field during the Nebraska vs. Illinois football game in Memorial Stadium, November 10, 2018.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Pershing Rifles since the drill team got back up and running in 2017, and the group has a national award to show for their hard work.

Nebraska’s Pershing Rifles were named Best Overall Company at the 2019 National Convention in Kansas City in March.

The Best Overall Company award recognizes the Pershing Rifles chapter that displays exceptional performance in service to the local community, and an outstanding commitment to military excellence and leadership development.

The Pershing Rifles drill team had stopped performing for more than a decade but was restarted in 2017 under the advisement of Jamie Peer, professor of military science and Lt. Col., United States Army. Peer worked with student Zachary Day to put the drill team back together.

“It’s significant to win this award and it speaks to how hard they’ve worked to re-establish themselves in a short period of time,” Peer said. “It recognizes what they’ve done here and for the national chapter, and several cadets served on the national staff for the convention.”

The 2018-2019 drill team consisted of 10 members with more than 30 members in the company. The drill team practices three times per week and the company meets weekly. Outgoing Company Commander Mark Wagner said the drill team and company had spent the year making connections to serve more members of the community and in a greater capacity.

They served as color guard at a North Star High School football game, provided ceremonies at a funeral for a veteran, and conducted a POW-MIA ceremony for the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, among other duties performed.

But their biggest achievements were the activities and drills they performed in commemoration of Veterans Day 2018, coinciding with the dedication of the new World War I plaques and displays at Memorial Stadium.

Army Cadet Tyler Mona throws his rifle to Army Cadet Jared Polack during a routine by the Pershing Rifles to start the ceremony at Memorial Stadium Nov. 11, 2018.

During the week leading up to the ceremony, Wagner said the team had to learn two separate routines for the Chancellor’s Tailgate, held on Nov. 10, 2018, and the Memorial Stadium dedication, the following day.

“We had a lot going on that week and it was also around midterms,” Wagner, a junior from Omaha, said. “It was a lot of fun and definitely worth it. We hope to have more opportunities like that in the future.”

Wagner said he and incoming Company Commander Max deMayo will continue to grow the group’s numbers, and keep establishing community connections. Wagner will also be serving as regional commander for the national organization.

“We’re going to continue building those relationships in the coming year,” Wagner said. “And we hope to compete at nationals as a drill team next year, do well and show that we belong.”

Pershing Rifles was established by Gen. John J. Pershing at the University of Nebraska in 1894 as Varsity Rifles. It became a national organization in 1928. Membership is open to any student, following an initiation process that includes an academic test and physical training.