February marks the start of a busy month for Manatee High School's Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. This month, JROTC's junior varsity and varsity teams will be participating in drill meets and will undergo a formal inspection.
JROTC was founded in 1916 as part of the National Defense Act. It is a high school program provided by the U.S. Armed Forces that focuses on leadership skills and physical fitness. The purpose of JROTC is not only to enrich students physically and mentally, but to provide a taste of what military life will be like for students interested in enlisting.
They are taught unique
skills specific for army life such as proper flag folding, insignia recognition and etiquette for addressing officers.
"I think the program has a positive effect on everyone who joins in one way or another. Cadets learn leadership skills, basic first aid, a strong work ethic and teamwork," said sophomore Connor Powers, a member of JROTC.
Their activities are not exclusively drill meets and inspections, but also include shooting, wilderness survival training and participation in numerous competitions.
The junior varsity team of JROTC participated in a drill meet Feb. 2 at Southeast High School. A drill meet consists of a marching team unit that performs routines based on military drill.
The participants perfect their proficiency and are judged by a panel of five Army recruiters.
Male armed squad, female armed squad and female unarmed all received third place, Male color guard won second place and female color guard won first place.
JROTC's varsity teams competed in a drill meet Feb. 9 at the University of Tampa. MHS's female color guard placed third in their division.
JROTC also went through a formal inspection Feb. 19 and earned a 99 percent. To conduct an inspection, cadets are separated into three companies and assessed by Army recruiters. The purpose is to test the students on their general knowledge of JROTC and judge the condition of their uniforms
Cadets are expected to know the mission of JROTC, ranking systems and military history. Uniforms are then inspected according to Army standards.
Formal inspections are held once every year at MHS and are the basis of the merit designation in the program. There are three levels of distinction that a JROTC unit can earn in an inspection: Merit Unit, Honor Unit and the Honor Unit of Distinction.
"Since we maintained a high score this year, we get to keep our title of Honor Unit with Distinction," said sophomore Tyler Renfroe.
Awards are given according to the unit. Merit Units are given a white star, Honor Units are awarded with the blue star and Honor Units with Distinction are given the yellow star.
In the past, JROTC hasalso been acknowledged for its superiority in the State Raider Competition, which they have won multiple times, including a tie for first this year.
Also, several members have been awarded first place at State Rifle Meets.
Members of JROTC are given an opportunity to develop their minds and bodies through lessons of respect and honor that can be applied to every aspect of their lives.
"JROTC is a great way to improve yourself mentally and physically. It's made a lasting impact on me and I'll never forget the values I've learned or the people I've met," said sophomore Louis Rottes.
With the beginning of March approaching, JROTC continues with high expectations. They will attend an A5 rifle meet on March 2 and will host the much-anticipated Military Ball in May.