Competition day started off with a foggy chill, but it soon shone brightly on participants at Saturdays drill meet hosted by the Elkin High School JROTC Battalion. Spectators quickly shed blankets and jackets in favor of sunglasses as these high school students strutted in sharp formation wearing authentic military uniforms.
Representing six schools, cadets performed multiple precision formations in several categories including Individual, Duet, Squad (eight cadets) with Arms, Squad without Arms, Platoon (minimum of 13 cadets) with Arm and Platoon without Arms. The cadets chosen to represent their battalion are the top performers chosen by their school.
Graders observe the smallest detail from how well they wear the uniform, to accuracy and speed with which instructions are performed ranking them on a scale of 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest). This is best exemplified in the Knockout drill where all cadets assemble and perform the spontaneous drills as instructed. Those who make mistakes are eliminated until only one cadet remains. This year’s winner was Cadet Taylor Saunders of the North Iredell JROTC, who were the overall top performers of the competition.
The Elkin JROTC also performed well, bringing in second place for Individual for both new cadets as well as seasoned cadets, and third place for Platoon with Arms.
Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps can be helpful for those who wish to join the Armed Forces. Luke Lanier of the Forbush Falcons hopes to join the Army or Air Force inspired by his father’s and uncle’s service. According to his mother Donna, because of JROTC, “he can go in at an E3,” which is a higher rank and leads to more pay. By joining ROTC in college, cadets prepare to be an officer.
JROTC is not just about drills, however, nor is it exclusively for those students wishing to join the military after high school. This class can replace traditional physical education, but JROTC is more than just another class. According to Maj. Roy Ferguson, instructor of the Elkin JROTC, “Kids learn discipline, self-motivation, pride. A lot of kids find their niche, they’re not football stars or cheerleaders or whatever, but all of a sudden they get a uniform” and then people see a change in their behavior.
Elkin senior Cadet 2nd Lt. Samuel Booher agrees with his instructor. Booher joined JROTC in his freshman year. “I was having trouble in school. I was falling behind, I was having to repeat a grade. I joined ROTC and immediately I was learning discipline. My grades were coming up. I learned better study habits and I was doing a lot of community service. Teachers notice a big difference in how we act in class. You rub off on other people.”
Although she is the least experienced member to the Elkin Battalion, Cadet Pfc. Aaliyah Ganzzermiller has “learned a lot of respect, order and manners. Just because you’re in ROTC doesn’t mean you act good there and then go to your other classes and act up.”
According to the JROTC Creed, cadets are to always conduct themselves in such a way as to be “a credit to (their) family, country, school and the Corps of Cadets.” This can be seen by the way they subconsciously hold the door open for others, automatically escort instead of just giving directions, and instinctively use “ma’am” and “sir” when speaking.
“Wherever you go, you represent ROTC. They remember your name,” said Booher.
To learn more about JROTC, go to www.usarmyjrotc.com/jrotc-program.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.