A stadium of more than 45,000 football fans applauding different military branches on the field went still as one small group of Soldiers displayed precise marching and crisp rifle drills using bayonet-tipped 1903 Springfield rifles.
The U.S. Army Drill Team, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), showcased their skills during the National Football League Pro Bowl halftime show, Jan. 29, at Aloha Stadium, Hawaii.
Sgt. Julio Ortiz, a drill team member since October 2008, has experience performing many events, but rates the halftime show as one of the best.
"At first it was quite nerve racking, but I just began to enjoy the opportunity to showcase the Army to all the fans at the Pro Bowl," said Ortiz, squad leader. "I have performed around 200 different events, but this experience is at the top of my list."
Ortiz hopes that trips like this will encourage other Soldiers to step up to the challenge of becoming a part of the drill team.
"Yeah, we preformed in front of a stadium full of people in Hawaii, but we also maintained our composure because of the pride we have in ourselves and the Army," said Ortiz. "I won't be able to go on these trips forever, so I am encouraging those who want to experience the best of the Army to give drilling a try."
Ortiz shared that he wasn't an experience driller prior to the Army. He didn't learn how to drill in high school or college, but he was willing to learn and give it a try.
"I didn't even know the Army had a drill team," said Ortiz. "It wasn't until I arrived at The Old Guard when I realized that there was this team that did this sort of thing."
He added that he was blown away when he saw a group of drillers practicing one day in a parking lot on post.
"They were so smooth and crisp that I had to try out. It wasn't easy to make the team, but the next thing I know I was traveling with them for a mission," said Ortiz. "My time at The Old Guard has really flown by since then."
Ortiz went on to explain that this would be his last great performance with the drill team before he is reassigned to Fort Stewart in the spring.
"I think I have the best job in the Army, and it is performing at events such as this that make it all worth it. I got paid to come to Hawaii and do something kind of special. I report to my new unit in May, but this event was a good way to finish my time here on the team," Ortiz said soberly. "We effect so many people by what we do out there."
This dedicated team leaves a lasting impression where ever they go, but he says that none of it would be possible without the support of family.
"My family fully supported me joining the Army and they were more excited when they found out that I was on the Army Drill Team. They said that they have even seen me on TV," said Ortiz. "Now that I am leaving [the drill team], it is definitely a sweet sorrow mostly because of all the memories from all over the world."
Spc. Alejandro Canto, a new member on the drill team, is glad he has taken the opportunity Ortiz speaks so highly of. Performing during the show wasn't only Canto's mission but also a dream come true.
"I love playing sports in high school, especially football. I understand the game and know what it means for players to earn the right to play in the Pro Bowl. I have watched the Pro Bowl my whole life and now to be part of it was amazing," said Canto. "This was only my second time performing with the team. The first time we were in London and now we are here. I am just enjoying all these great experiences."
Canto added that the feeling he had being out on the field with his team is a memory that he will never soon forget.
"We practice eight hours a day together and to share in the success of the event was great, but nothing prepared me for the amount energy that was in the stadium," Canto said grippingly. "You could hear the whole stadium yelling 'USA!'"