SMSgt. Antonio Ruiz
When excellence follows you everywhere you go, it it far easier to determine where the excellence comes from!
SMSgt Antonio Ruiz was born in Laredo, Texas and joined the Army Junior ROTC program at Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio, Texas where he graduated in 1971. Getting that taste of a military lifestyle, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1973 and served as an administrative specialist, postal clerk, student training advisor but his love and passion came within his 17-year Master Military Training "Blue Rope" Instructor background he enjoyed during the bulk of his career.
After serving as Training Superintendent for the 322nd Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, he retired with 23 years and 7 months of military service. In July of 1996, he was immediately hired as an AF JROTC Instructor primarily working with first-year cadets coaching the Junior Varsity Drill Team program at historic John Jay High School in San Antonio, Texas. Hired by Major Tom Shackelford (a major icon in his own right within the drill community) this team thrust forward a good program and made them GREAT. At John Jay, first-year cadets flocked to the drill program for a chance to be members of the highly successful "Tops in Blue" and "Marching Mustangs". His strong leadership led these two teams to first-ever victories as noted by the 2000 Texas State Championship title won by the Marching Mustangs Drill Team who consistently competed against varsity teams to include their own, unheard of against superior teams like the Silver Eagles and Snap II.
After a four-year separation from his best friend, Major Shackelford made it possible for SMSgt Ruiz to transfer across town to the AFJROTC program at Clark H.S. to revitalize the drill team program plus continue teaching the cadets which he loved early as freshmen both in the classroom and on the drill field! His work immediately had the same effect at Clark that it did at Jay, beginning a fantastic run of excellence that allowed the teams and the cadets to flourish. The team grew and prospered in an fashion replicated by few. After 12 years, this dynasty amassed 1,794 drill trophies and $29,625 in prize money including three all-service National H.S. Drill Team Championships, two National H.S. Drill Team Championship Runner-Up titles, six Air Force National Championship titles, five Air Force National Runner-Up titles, two Air Force Regional Champion titles, eight Air Force Regional Runner-Up titles, 11 State titles, 11 District titles, and 51 Military Skills Drill Meet Championship titles.
SMSgt Ruiz success on and off the drill floor was recognized by many receiving well deserved accolades including seven Junior ROTC "Outstanding Instructor of the Year" awards; 2016 John Jay High School Air Force Junior ROTC "Silver Eagle Armed Drill Team Hall of Fame" recipient but the highest honor came with the coveted 2016 Induction into the lofty and select group of individuals nominated to be a part of the National Drill Hall of Fame.
SMSgt. Ruiz benefited the greater drill community in many ways. His amazing experience and background gave tremendous feedback for drill meets to make them better for all schools. Clarifying and rethinking items within the most critical two pieces of information any meet maintains - the event SOP/LOI and the event scoresheets - always made the competitions he attended better year after year for ALL TEAMS. A critical thinker, his efforts to clarify and standardize the military drill manual, to think through ramifications of drill changes to head of issues BEFORE they presented during a busy drill meet, and his ongoing support of his drill teams indeed made him a positive force within the military drill universe. His affable demeanor and gregarious nature made him a beloved figure to youngsters within the schools and nobody could sell the benefits of both JROTC and military drill more than SMSgt. Ruiz. Though he retired after the 2015-16 school year at Clark, he remains someone who was, is and always will be a fantastic booster of competition military drill around the globe.
There are few people who can boast the pedigree, the accomplishments and the sheer number of lives he has made better through the lessons he taught to young men and women on and off the drill floor. His inclusion within the Drill Hall of Fame is an honor for the Hall and well deserved for a life well lived wrapped in the fabric of military drill excellence in all forms!
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