By T. Anthony Bell, Fort Lee Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va. – There were moments of doubt about the chances of winning and a sense of disbelief when they took the title.

“We did not think we were going to win,” said Pvt. Lourdes Paulino, Whiskey Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion. “Even during the competition, we still thought we were going to lose.”

Paulino’s opinion was echoed by several other Whiskey teammates who stood nearby in a celebratory gaggle after winning the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade Drill and Ceremony Competition Saturday at Williams Stadium.

The annual event pitted advanced individual training companies from the brigade’s three battalions in a competition divided into regulation and freestyle categories. Each company was represented by 20-Soldier platoons that competed in both categories. The company with the most points tallied from each category is the winner.

Though there were plenty of dumbfounded faces in the victorious Whiskey camp, one Soldier essentially wore the same expression before and after the win. Staff Sgt. Jamie Spain, platoon sergeant, was a picture of cool confidence.

“I knew we won it because we’re that good,” she said, noting her team practiced five hours a day over the past week. “We checked all of the blocks.”

Spain’s reference to “the blocks” were the list of commands each team was required to execute in the regulation category. They included counter-columns, left and right faces and flanking movements.

“I knew we didn’t miss anything,” she said, indicating some teams omitted required elements.

In the freestyle category, teams were not led by platoon sergeants and were not required to execute basic drill and ceremony movements. Instead, the emphasis was on creativity, and Soldiers were responsible for their own routines.

Accordingly, each company element offered a wide range of gimmicks, movements and vocalizations to impress judges. It was something to behold, said Col. Tamatha Patterson, commander, 23rd QM Bde. She marveled at the creativity and innovation shown throughout the competition but especially during the freestyle event.

“It was quite a thrill,” she said after the event. “I saw leadership, teamwork, discipline and strong displays of our Army Values. I saw the future of our Army today, and I’m proud we’re making a contribution.”

Among the freestyle performers were a ukulele player and a Soldier who was hoisted atop rifles positioned at shoulder length, creating a human pyramid.

During the program’s intermission, the competitors and hundreds of their battle buddies in the stands watched a performance by the U.S. Army Drill Team of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). The show, featuring the unit’s signature rifle-tosses and precision drill movements, was intended to impress, said the brigade’s top enlisted Soldier.

“I wanted them to see the standard,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas J. Kelly Jr., the event coordinator.

The Old Guard has a world-renown reputation and members spend countless hours perfecting their craft. Spain is tenured enough to know her AIT charges are not likely to meet The Old Guard standard. She does know, however, working hard at one’s craft is a start.

“Practice makes perfect,” she said.

Whiskey Co. was presented with a trophy for winning the competition, and the 266th QM Bn. was awarded the Golden Boot spirit award for the battalion displaying the most pride throughout the event.