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1SG James Tadayeski and the Maroon Knights Drill Team

TagayeskiWith just over 21 years in active duty, U.S. Army 1SG James Tadayeski made a solid transition to civilian life. He has countless stories of his job in the civilian world outside the military working at an FBO airport on the west coast of the Florida peninsula. But he knew two things. He missed the structured environment the military provided and he knew he had the passion and knowledge to teach young adults. And with that, a JROTC legend was born in the rural area of Grant High School Army JROTC in Dry Prong, Louisiana.

One thing many notice when you read through these Drill Hall of Fame JROTC instructor write-ups is that few of these people had extensive, formal Drill Sergeant, Technical Instructor or Drill Instructor backgrounds. But what they all had was a passion to learn, a passion to teach and a exacting nature. NOBODY personified that more than "1SG T". He read, he asked questions, he knew a ton as a 1SG from the Old Guard but he soon DEVOURED the Field Manual! "By being in The Old Guard, it forces you to pay attention to detail and the little things. The little things are what count in the overall success of a unit or organization down the road. Plus the focus on precision and excellence in your daily duties as a soldier." stated 1SG Tadayeski. The Army manual and the event SOP were the standards and his teams were ALWAYS prepared knowing every rule, every competition area and every nuance as well or better than the people putting on the meet themselves. This attention to every detail extended to practice, training, all the way down to the way the spoke, looked, and acted off the drill floor. It is what propelled this Maroon Knight drill team to excellence on and off the drill floor.

Landing in Dry Prong, Louisiana was not exactly the Yankee Stadium of the JROTC drill universe! But in some ways, this legend was only exalted by the Rocky-like story that was about to unfold. Very soon after arriving, the culture was changed, the drill team was formed. The precision and dominance locally soon became legendary. Senior Army Instructors came and went during his 16 years plus at Grant High School with several years where HE WAS the senior Army Instructor solo, but what never waivered was the commitment and dedication to excellence that became the trademark of any program he associated with.


Gaining little build-up, countless state titles followed and not by small margins as the years progressed. Then the big show became the stage. The U.S. Army decided to host an Eastern and Western Drill Championship. Being from Louisiana and competing close to home, not many people nationally had heard of Grant High School. That was about to change dramatically.

In the Spring of 2010 in the AlamoDome in San Antonio, Texas. the biggest of the bigs had assembled to compete in the U.S. Army JROTC Western Drill Championships. A well disciplined little team without a lot of flash and without a million parents were competing with a crispness that turned heads. And when the awards ceremony came, "Maroon Guard-Grant High School" was called winning high awards in Inspection, Regulation and Color Guard. Every time they called there name, people were whispering back and forth creating almost a buzz with their few dozen parents clapping wildly. Finally, when the Overall Armed Division Championship was called for Grant High School, that overall whisper became a few people astually asking me, "Who the HELL is Grant High School?" We didn't know so er too double and triple checked the score sheets because we at SNI had never heard of them as well.

This affable Yankee fan maintained no secrets and would gladly help everyone and anyone better their unit. First these requests came from the state teams, but as the prominance of the man and his Maroon Knights team grew, these calls came from all services from across the USA. But with that charitable nature burned a competitive fire that he instilled in his cadets. The excelled in the classroom, in community service, in their home lives...and most certainly on the drill field.


The Grant High School Maroon Knights Armed Drill Team soon was known to all across America. They DOMINATED the Army Championships year after year across the 2010's often winning three of the four primary events by wide margins and then later, winning all FOUR events. And in true Hoosiers fashion, this team and this man came to the biggest stage and always finished in the top echelon of teams but finally won the most competitive and highest honor, capturing the Demilitarized Arms All-Service Championship at the National H.S. Drill Team Championships in 2018. Something many schools thought was just impossible for a program with only 90 or so cadets, The Maroon Knights had dome it!

1SG Tadayeski soon moved on to Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Georgia. Challenged with limited cadet numbers, he trained undaunted and continued to produce some of the sweetest, smoothest drill ever witnessed at the high school level. He retired in 2020 from JROTC but his majic continues to this day.

The legend of the Maroon Knights will live forever within the National Drill Hall of Fame along with their leader. There certainly has been no team that deserved it more. The drill world CONTINUES to be forever bettered by 1SGs dedication as he is still the go-to figure for advanced knowledge in the Army drill manual and top performance techniques. He has been a fixture at the Nationals Drill Camp for about a decade and he continues to this day to work with instructors nationally, passing on his training ideas and military knowledge selflessly. Ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome to the National Military Drill Hall of Fame Inductee U.S. Army 1SG (ret.) James Tadayeski, and the phenomenal Maroon Knights Drill Team!

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