More than just a class: JROTC

They’re up and running before the sun and scaling walls after dark. The contrast of laughter and the rhythm of marching feet echo out commitment to their battalion. Whether or not class is in session, they’re working hard.

Seniors Anthony Belvedere and Warner Williams (far right) discuss plans for the annual 9/11 ceremony.

To some, the students that walk the halls clad in camouflage uniforms are a mystery.  They can be found raising the flag in the morning and running obstacle courses after school, but there’s much more to Decatur’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program than what you see might see at first glance.

“When people look at us they say, ‘Oh, they must be soldiers,’” senior David Hall said, “but really it’s just taking what we learn in the classroom and implementing it into other activities.”

Hall entered the JROTC program as a freshman under Col. Johnny Richards and has remained steadily involved, climbing the ranks to Captain before the end of his junior year.

As one of the many leaders within the group, Hall works with his classmates to conduct Raider practices, pushing the physical limits of those who look up to him.  Hall claims that the six mile runs and wall climbing simulations the teams execute diverge from traditional conditioning and practice.

The JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge (JCLC) pushes cadets each year to expand on their leaderships skills.

“We’ve got a 12 foot wall that we put our backs against and help push people to the top, they chicken wing it up and get themselves up.” Hall said. “We usually have them wear pants and long sleeve shirts if we need to grab them over.”

Raider Captains like Hall see it as their job to push their cadets physically and work them hard. But what lies beneath calloused hands and aching muscles is a discipline that reflects the impact, hard work and leadership has on these students.

“JROTC really increases self-confidence and leadership,” Senior Anthony Belvedere said,  “it takes a lot of time and commitment, but you get out of it what you put into it.”

 Belvedere has taken the time to experience all the program teaches and offers, and knows he can  look back over his years in the program with assurance that the hours dedicated to his fellow cadets have been worthwhile

“I really love leadership, working with other students and helping them improve in different areas, scholastically and personally,” he said. “I really just want to help myself and help others.”

Senior and Battalion Commander Dylan Suna compares where he was when he entered his freshman year to where he is now, and was proud of how far he’s come.

“Coming into high school, I didn’t really [care] about school,” Suna said.

The JROTC stands with Decatur citizens to honor the lives that were lost on 9/11.

He settled into his role as a leader quickly, now comfortable holding the group in his hands.  As a commander, he leads the battalion in its entirety and through that position, Suna feels that he’s grown significantly. 

“When you get out of high school you’re gonna have a chain of command no matter what job you’re at,” Suna explains. “That’s how we’re set up here, and it’s really helped me see myself as a leader.

Leadership seems to be the idea that sums up the JROTC program, echoed in the words and actions of all cadets and officers.  Just like everyone else, these cadets have a long road ahead of them. Thankfully, the leadership skills shaped by hard work and determination will help them on their way. 

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