Missouri Military Academy Fusileers Teach Leadership, Discipline, Work Ethic and Camaraderie

Missouri Military Academy Fusileers Teach Leadership, Discipline, Work Ethic and Camaraderie

The Missouri Military Academy (MMA) Fusileer drill team is a staple of MMA’s excellence in military leadership, structure, discipline and class. Cadets compete in different classifications in each of the following divisions: Armed Regulation Drill, Unarmed Regulation Drill, Armed Color Guard, Unarmed Color Guard, Armed Exhibition and Unarmed Exhibition. Learn more about the Fusileers below.

Long Season and Hard Work

Unlike other athletic programs, the Fusileers season encompasses an entire academic year — from the start of the school year through mid-May when the team competes at nationals in Daytona, Florida. In addition to competitions, the team gives regular exhibition performances. This year, the Fusileers have already performed the national anthem for two Kansas City Royals games and one Kansas City Chiefs game, as well as at MMA’s Homecoming/Alumni Weekend and Fall Family Weekend on campus.

Daily practices take place three times per day — in the morning beginning at 6:25 a.m., in the afternoon from 4-6 p.m. and in the evening from 8:45-9:30 p.m.

“Drill is built on skill, precision and muscle memory,” says Fusileer coach Rick Dehlinger. “Like any sport, it comes down to practice, and I want my team to know that I support their efforts and will make the time available for them to be the best drill team in the nation.”

Developing Leadership Skills

While Dehlinger works to motivate and refine skills as needed, the Fusileers are largely cadet-lead. Cadet leaders choose who is on the team, evaluate the team and advance members based on skill development. That said, it is imperative for all cadets to continue to advance to elite-level, as they can be called upon for competition at any time.

“The Fusileers often compete with the ‘next man up’ mentality since we do share team members with other athletic teams,” Dehlinger says. “To date, we have seen cadets step up to the moment and showcase that they have the determination and grit to step into a leadership role and not miss a beat.”

This year, the team is led by the following cadet captains:

  • Gorka-Aitor Yarte-Zertuche: Yarte-Zertuche is a seasoned Fusileer veteran, having joined the team five years ago. According to Dehlinger, he knows the demands of being on the team and shapes that expectation with the new cadets early in Fusileer training.
  • Gage Blanton: Blanton is the co-captain this year, which allows the team to operate with a drill commander present at all drill competitions and practices.
  • Gabriel Iglesias: Iglesias is the color guard commander. Dehlinger says Iglesias has the experience needed to give the color guard team the best chance at earning another national title at nationals.
  • Duane Thompson: Thompson is the newest commander and has taken the responsibility of the unarmed exhibition team.

Character Development Via Drill

According to Dehlinger, while skills are an important component of the team, the true benefit of being a Fusileer lies in learning the value of a strong work ethic.  

“My goal as the coach for the Fusileers is to leave each cadet with a sense of accomplishment,” he says. “I was taught at a young age that hard work pays off in the end, and I want my boys to understand that. I want to push them outside their comfort zones and to learn something new. I want them to acknowledge their weaknesses and practice improvement.”

To accomplish these goals, Dehlinger utilizes five key elements of instruction: responsibility, self-discipline, teamwork, civility and success.

“I hope cadets get these five things out of being on the team:

  1. Responsibility: Understanding what it truly means to be responsible for oneself and for a team.
  2. Self-discipline: More than just precision in movement, cadets must practice self-discipline in every aspect of their lives. Their uniforms, for example, must always be taken care of and fit properly.
  3. Teamwork: When competing, every command is executed as a team movement. We do not have individuals on our team — we eat together, practice together and share our successes and our disappointments together. We hold our team members to a higher standard and make sure that we hold ourselves accountable. Working as a team builds confidence and camaraderie, and with that, comes success.
  4. Civility: MMA is a diverse school with people from all around the world. With language barriers and customs, we learn that respect is a prerequisite to communicating effectively, building community and creating high-functioning teams.
  5. Success: I expect success. When we put in the time and effort to be the best, we are the best. Success and confidence have a small grey area that I want my team to live in — just enough confidence to be successful, but not too much to lose sight of their training.

I truly believe these five things set the Fusileers up for success on and off the team,” Dehlinger says.

Best in the Nation

Competing in the Association of Military Colleges & Schools of the United States (AMCSUS) 2019, 2020 and 2021 Annual Drill Competitions, the MMA Fusileer drill team won first place against military schools such as Marine Military Academy, Randolph-Macon Academy, Army and Navy Academy, Riverside Military Academy, Fork Union Military Academy, Fishburne Military School, St. John’s Northwestern, Valley Forge Academy and more.

At the 2021 National High School Drill Team Competition (NHSDTC), competing in the U.S. Army Drill National Championship and the All-Service Drill National Championship, MMA's Fusileer drill team placed first in the nation in Armed Regulation at the All-Service Nationals Master Level and first in the nation for Armed Color Guard for both the All-Service Nationals Master Level and the U.S. Army Drill National Championship.

Now in the 2022-23 academic year, MMA’s Fusileer drill team aims to bring home a national title once again.

“I have high expectations for this team, and I believe I have the right cadets leading the team to another successful year on the drill floor,” Dehlinger says. “I believe that MMA has a great chance at winning an overall national title in Daytona Florida in May.”

Cadet News

The Year of the Rabbit —  MMA Cadets Celebrate Lunar New Year

MMA cadets are celebrating the Lunar New Year with decorations, a presentation and a field trip. Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is on Sunday, Jan. 22. It celebrates a time of hope that represents the opportunity to gather with family and friends to usher out the old year while welcoming a new year teeming with good luck, health, prosperity and opportunity. 

Read More about The Year of the Rabbit — MMA Cadets Celebrate Lunar New Year