Gator Guard Drill Team

Gator Guard Drill Team
Active 1953 – present
Country  United States
Type Drill Team/Color Guard
Headquarters Van Fleet Hall (Gainesville, Florida)
Nickname(s) Gator Guard
Motto(s) "All The Damn Time"
Commander Commander Gregory S. Davis

The Gator Guard Drill Team, abbreviated GGDT, is a nationally recognized precision drill team and military fraternity based at the University of Florida. The team is named after the Florida Gators, the mascot of the University of Florida. Founded in 1953, the Gator Guard is most widely known for its annual performances in the New Orleans Mardi Gras Parades.

Unit history and background

Gator guard performing at Mardi Gras parades, 2016.

The Gator Guard Drill Team was founded in 1953 at the University of Florida.[1] The drill team was formed by cadets from the University of Florida ROTC program. The Gator Guard performs annually at the University of Florida's Homecoming Parade, as well as the Krewe of Mid-City and King Rex parades at the New Orleans Mardi Gras.[2][3][4] The Drill Team uses M1903 rifles with 8-inch bayonets for all performances.[5] In addition, the Gator Guard also performs Color Guard ceremonies for the University of Florida, the SEC, and the MLB. The Gator Guard was modeled after the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard." The team makes an annual trip to Washington D.C. to train with The Old Guard.

The Gator Guard absorbed and succeeded the University of Florida's Army ROTC chapter of the Pershing Rifles upon its inception. The founding class of the Gator Guard consisted of 16 cadets in 1953. The team's membership would see an all-time high of 72 members in 1957.[6]

In many universities across the United States, ROTC participation was compulsory. This policy would be revoked in the 1960s, following opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, in favor of voluntary programs.[7] This move from compulsory to voluntary participation in the UF ROTC program would cause a substantial decrease in enrollment of members, both in the ROTC program and in the Gator Guard Drill Team. This is largely why the team's enrollment peaked in 1957. From 1963 to 1972 the Gator Guard would hold an unprecedented nine year winning streak as the "Best Drill Unit" in the All-Florida Invitational Drill Meet, held in Sarasota, Fl.

On August 18, 1976, an alumnus of the Gator Guard, Mark T. Barrett, assigned to United States Forces Korea would tragically be at the center of the Axe Murder Incident. Assigned to the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone, LT. Barrett would be part of a detail sent to cut down a poplar tree that had been blocking the view of the United Nations observers. While in the process of cutting down the tree, the detail was assaulted by North Koreans and LT. Mark Barrett was killed. The incident would be recognized internationally, and had the potential to spark an escalation of conflict on the Korean peninsula. A memorial for LT Barrett currently stands in front of Van Fleet Hall (Gainesville, Florida). The Gator Guard performs an annual changing of the Guard ceremony over the course of 24 hours over Mark T. Barrett's memorial, in similar fashion to 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Tomb of the Unknown Soldier changing of the guard.

In the 1970s, women would gain opportunities for entrance into ROTC programs, as the Army opened up positions in Field Artillery and the Ordinance Corps to female officers.[8] Women coming into the Army through ROTC dovetailed with the elimination of the Women's Army Corps. The Gator Guard, having been an exclusively male team, would also see the entrance of female members in the coveted position of drillers, who would march and execute precision drill movements in parade as part of the team.[9] The first female cadet to march with the drill team was during the 1973-1974 school year was Carmen Parrot. She was allowed to carry the Guidon during parades. The first female commander of the drill team would be Nancy A. Oxer in 1979. The first female GGDT member to be commissioned was Bonnie Chandler.

Between 2010 and 2015, the Gator Guard helped to create and train teams at other Florida universities modeled after the Gator Guard Drill Team. By 2015, the Gator Guard had successfully set up the 'Osprey Guard' at the University of North Florida, and the 'Seminole Guard' at Florida State University.

In 2016, the team consisted of 31 active male and female members[10]

Gator Guard Mission Statement

The Mission of the Gator Guard Drill Team, held since its inception in 1953, is as follows:

"The mission of the Gator Guard is to provide an effective leadership and teamwork framework through which select members of the Army ROTC program can broaden their military background in preparation for the acceptance of a commission. It represents the University of Florida in both university and civic functions and enhances the prestige of the university through favorable publicity received from these performances."[11]

Gator Guard leadership

Gator Guard at UF 2015 Homecoming Parade. Commander holds saber.

The Gator Guard leadership structure mirrors that of a US Army Company (military unit). The titular head of the organization is the "Commander." The Gator Guard Commander is traditionally in charge of all missions and operations of the drill team. The drill team differs from other military type units in that the commander is not appointed, but rather elected. The team holds an election at the end of the spring UF academic semester. The exact date of the election varies from year to year. The organization also possesses a treasurer, who is also elected. All other positions in the organization are, in keeping with military tradition, appointed by the commander.

The highest ranking appointed position is the Executive Officer. The Executive Officer manages the team staff and helps guide operations. The next highest appointed position after the Executive Officer is the Platoon Sergeant. The Platoon Sergeant is the head trainer of the drill team and guides the day-to-day operations.

The team also possesses a Color Guard Commander, who is equal in rank with the Platoon Sergeant. The Color Guard Commander is appointed, and acts as the head trainer of the color guard participants and leads all color guard operations.

Gator Guard Commanders

Name Term began Term ended
1. No Record 1953 1954
2. James C. Langley 1954 1956
3. Kenneth Cox 1956 1957
4. Frank E. Yon 1957 1958
5-8. No Record 1958 1962
9. Bob Adams 1962 1963
10. Dick Combs 1963 1964
11. Thomas E. Striker 1964 1965
12. Stuart H. Watkins 1965 1966
13. Glade M. Ligget 1966 1967
14. Thomas Ball 1967 1968
15. Thomas V. Steck 1968 1969
16. James M. Hedick 1969 1970
17. Marcy A. Dupré IV 1970 1971
18. James Killian 1971 1972
19. William A. Van Horn Jr 1972 1973
20. Samuel W. Anderson 1973 1974
21. William V. Allen 1974 1975
22. Paul Rock 1975 1976
23. John Jordan 1976 1977
24. Thomas K. Heineken 1977 1978
25. Ernie Robinson 1978 1979
26. Nancy A. Oxer 1979 1980
27. Karl D. Davis 1980 1981
28. Charles Charleston 1981 1982
29. Van T. Oxer 1982 1983
30. Wes Ramp 1983 1984
31. Jose Bentancourt 1984 1985
32. Joel W. Cornell 1985 1986
33. James E. Oxer 1986 1987
34. John Daigle 1987 1988
35. Paul Epstein 1988 1989
36. Charles W. Seifert III 1989 1990
37. Gregory M. Wikan 1990 1991
38. Ralph López 1991 1992
39. Peter E. Leone 1992 1993
40. Amy R. Jensen 1993 1994
41. Brett Rhodenizer 1994 1995
42. Francisco López 1995 1996
43. Dereck L. Edge 1996 1997
44. Francisco López 1997 1998
45. Charles A. Gambaro Jr. 1998 1999
46. Abraham S.J. Falkowitz 1999 2000
47. Hideyoshi C. Johnson 2000 2001
48. Jeremiah J. Cordovano 2001 2002
49. Andres M. Rivera 2002 2003
50. Laiza M. Correa 2003 2004
51. Lara R. Nobles 2004 2005
52. Kamephis Perez 2005 2006
53. Evan R. Raymond 2005 2006
54. Daniel J. Perez 2006 2008
55. Randall L. Conyers II 2008 2009
56. Christopher M. Hayes 2009 2010
57. Sheldon G.B. Waugh 2010 2011
58. James K. Llanio 2011 2013
59. Alexander W. Smith 2013 2014
60. Sean P. Lynch 2014 2015
61. Jared S. Abes 2015 2016
62. Gregory S. Davis 2016 2017


External links

Gator Guard Drill Team

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