Ramona High School and its NJROTC (Navy Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps) program played host on Saturday for the Area 11 Qualifier Meet, a big step for all local NJROTC programs hoping to stake their claim for the state championships slated for the end of February.
The meet took place on and around the football field at Ramona High beginning at 7:30 a.m., with various events, inspections and competitions throughout the day, and an awards ceremony wrapping things up in the afternoon.
Sixteen teams from around the county, some from Los Angeles and Orange counties and even a squad from Tucson, Ariz., participated in the meet, which RHS hosts once a year. Cadets tested themselves and the efforts of their training in events such as Color Guard, Physical Training, Armed and Unarmed Drill Presentations, Personnel Inspections and a written academic exam.
Teams, and the individuals who make up those teams, face intense scrutiny from Navy and Marine officers and inspectors, as well as college-level NJROTC inspectors who likely remember their own trials as a young high school cadet trying to make their way through the ranks.
Inspectors could be heard grilling cadets on Naval codes and regulations, proper etiquette and even current events, such as what ships were recently sent to Haiti in response to aid the nation after the earthquake. Cadets stood at attention, relying on the confidence they have built through their training.
Cadets who completely commit to the NJROTC program average between 15 to 20 hours a week of extracurricular time training and studying to better themselves as cadets, as students, and as young leaders, said their instructors. RHS junior Trenton Rogers, in his third year of NJROTC, said he initially joined to “try something new.”
“Since then, it has taught me good leadership skills and a lot about responsibility,” he said.
Brenda Riches watched as her son Tanner, a sophomore at RHS and a second year cadet, prepared for the Physical Training portion of the day’s event.
“What he has learned here has really helped,” she said. “There is such a difference in his maturity level and demeanor—he’s so polite!”
The grandson of a retired Navy Chief, Tanner Riches is considering parlaying his NJROTC experience into a career with the Marines after graduation.
The skies stayed an appropriate battleship gray for most of the day, and emotions bounced around, as “success” in some of the competitions is a fine line, or a sloppy slap of a rifle butt, away from a costly deduction from the inspectors. The smiles and camaraderie far outweighed the errors and critiques, and each school’s squads came away from the event a little closer to their fellow cadets, and another step closer to becoming tomorrow’s leaders.
Ramona’s NJROTC, whose program was nearly cut from the school just four years ago, was named Most Improved Unit in the Country in 2008. Their success continued on Saturday when they took First Place Overall in the Area 11 Qualifier, with Westview, Reseda, Patrick Henry, and Sierra High Schools capturing second through fifth, respectively.
Kelsey Perry of Ramona took the individual title for sit-ups with 317, beating all boys and girls. Ramona also won the 16x100 relay and the 8x220 relay. The Bulldogs took second in Sit-Ups, third in Push-Ups, third in Personnel Inspection and fourth in Unarmed Basic.
Cadets traveled to Lake Pleasant, Ariz., Jan. 30 to take part in the Orienteering Championships.