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Junior ROTC Students Show Off Leadership Skills
by Army National Guard Sgt. Darron Salzer - May 29, 2013

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JOINT BASE McGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – Young men and women from 2nd Brigade, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps competed in the annual Raider Challenge here May 11, 2013.

Cadets from the Fort Hamilton High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program in Brooklyn, N.Y., cheer on their school's Raider Team during the Raider Challenge at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., May 11, 2013. The Fort Hamilton Raider Team, known as the "Wardawgs," was one of several teams that competed in head-to-head team events such as a 3K run, an event called the "gauntlet," the one rope bridge event, and a team 5K run. (Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Darron Salzer)
Cadets from the Fort Hamilton High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program in Brooklyn, N.Y., cheer on their school's Raider Team during the Raider Challenge at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., May 11, 2013. The Fort Hamilton Raider Team, known as the "Wardawgs," was one of several teams that competed in head-to-head team events such as a 3K run, an event called the "gauntlet," the one rope bridge event, and a team 5K run. (Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Darron Salzer)

In teams of eight men, women, or coed, the cadets competed in events such as a team three-kilometer run, an event called the “gauntlet,” an Army Physical Fitness Test and a five-kilometer road march.

Army Col. Twala Mathis, brigade commander, said nearly 20 JROTC teams from the Northeast Region were competing – the largest number to date.

“As the years go by and this [event] continues to improve, I think we're going to have more and more of the Junior ROTC teams from throughout the Northeast Region that will be able to come here and compete,” Mathis said.

For Mathis, the JROTC program is an incredible tool to develop better citizens for the future.

“I really think the JROTC program is one of the best programs in high schools,” she said. “It is a super program designed to focus primarily on developing and mentoring and coaching the students to become better citizens.”

According to Brenda Gainey, the chief of 2nd Brigade, JROTC, “the Junior ROTC mission is to motivate students to be better citizens and being a better citizen means knowing how to take charge and contribute to the wellbeing of your community.”

One of the ways to create better citizens is by making sure students understand that graduating high school is the priority, the two leaders agreed.

“We firmly advocate for students to go to college, but we also recognize that college is not for everyone,” said Gainey, who serves as a liaison between the brigade and its higher headquarters, U.S. Army Cadet Command.

Leadership is at the core of the JROTC program, and Mathis said it is one of several skills that can be critical to the development of future leaders.

“Improving their leadership skills, improving their communication skills – writing, reading and understanding the importance of being a team and coming together to pull through whatever challenges they may have is also a priority because they really are the future leaders of America,” Mathis said.

“Leadership is very important,” Gainey said. “If you have that skill, you can really succeed in anything.”

Mathis said that in her experience, students who join JROTC come from all walks of life and all economic backgrounds.

“Regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds, JROTC is a leadership program and at the end of the day it's all about developing those skills to become a better citizen,” she said.

As the liaison for 116 schools – 10 of which are in Europe – Gainey cautioned that JROTC is not a military organization, nor is it a tool used to recruit students into the military.

“We do not recruit students to go into the military, but since we are using that military model some of the cadets will choose that career path,” she said.

“Leadership is very important,” Gainey said. “If you have that skill, you can really succeed in anything.”

Junior ROTC is a program that, regardless of whether students enter the military or not, is worth its weight in gold, said Mathis.

“I think it is a program that serves our nation well and continues to serve our nation well,” she said. “When you look at [all of the benefits] of the program, it's really a program that is worth all of the resources that go into it.”

By Army National Guard Sgt. Darron Salzer
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2013

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