North High School, Des Moines, Iowa (April 2, 2017) --
A sharp cry pierces the silent gym as the first of four Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps teams file into the gym at North High School in Des Moines, Iowa. Each team marches in formation to their designated spot on the floor, led only by the sharp orders of their commanding cadet.
Even though they are all from different backgrounds or parts of Iowa, all snap to attention, and present arms as the first chords of the National Anthem rips through the gym. Every single cadet in the room has been preparing and training for competitions like the one that took place April 1st, 2017.
The JROTC program, also known as Leadership Education, was designed to show high school students how valuable their citizenship is and gives them an opportunity to provide service to the United States of America. It also teaches them personal responsibility, ethics and honor. As well as instill discipline and respect.
The North High School team is specifically the Marine Corps JROTC. The other three teams come from all over the state, Ottumwa, Sioux City and Davenport. Each school team follows a strict routine during the week and must abide by the grooming standards while in uniform and be on time to each practice.
The competition is all about the cadets said Marine Maj. Sean Quinlan, a teacher at North High School and JROTC instructor, during a meeting between the evaluators and team coaches. He said that even though they may have put a lot of time into this, it isn’t about who walks away with the trophy in the end, it’s about the experience and the cadets improving.
“These are possible future leaders of the Air Force, the Army, the Marine Corps or in society, obviously the programs are designed to make better citizens. If some choose to be Marines, Airman, Soldiers or Sailors that’s great, as long as they contribute in a positive way to this country,” said Quinlan.
The competition is very rigorous, teams are graded in an inspection, which tests their ability to maintain their uniforms in military standards. A few things the evaluators look for include if they are well-groomed, if the female hair is up and off their collar and males are freshly shaven. Also that all insignias, name plates and ribbons are correctly positioned. They are then tested on their ability to perform certain drill movements as a unit. Other competitions include the color guard and the rifle drill team.
In the end Ottumwa took third, Sioux City second and Davenport took first. Brig. Gen. Drew Dehaes, Deputy Adjutant General, and Chief MSgt. Timothy Cochran, State Command Chief, handed out all of the awards and had the opportunity to speak to the cadets.
“People are saying, oh thanks for being here, no, no, thank you for letting me be here. Because it’s the youth of America, it’s the people I get the honor to go out and lead every day that rejuvenates me,” said Dehaes. Dehaes spoke further to the cadets about how glad he was to be there and meet them. He encouraged them all to continue the path they are on now and to continue improving every step of the way.