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CMCSS JROTC Program Provides Strength, Stability, and Success

August 10, 2021

Please note: This article was originally posted during a previous school year. Information and/or dates from past events
may be not be relevant for the current school year.

Strength and resiliency can be found in many places, yet none are as inspiring as seeing it in our students. Through the tumultuous 2020-21 school year, several CMCSS students within the JROTC program proved grit and determination can produce excellent results.

In July, three teams from two CMCSS high schools, Northwest and Rossview, competed during the JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl (JLAB) National Competition in Washington, D.C. Northwest High School was represented by their Leadership and Academic teams. Rossview High School Academic Team qualified for the national competition.

The overall finish of each team represents the highest level each school has ever received. The Northwest High Leadership team took 11th-place out of 1,500 teams across the nation. The school’s Academic Team was one of the Top 16 in the country, out of over 1,700 academic teams. Rossview High Academic Team also placed in the Top 16 and has the added distinction of receiving the highest score of any CMCSS JROTC academic team to date.

These achievements would be tremendous even in a traditional year. To accomplish this feat through the uncertainty of last year is astounding. The cadets humbly acknowledge their success and bring the credit back to the unity of the team and the foundational support of the program.

“Freshman me was this little shell of a person that didn’t want to expand much,” said Bridger Helm, a senior at Northwest. He explains how CSM (Ret.) Glenn Louk took him aside and began to assign specific responsibilities. The experience pushed him to try more, and it made all the difference.

Kaylee Coon, a senior at Northwest, and Madeline Pufall, a sophomore at Rossview, share similar experiences of being shy and unsure of themselves. Through their journey with JROTC, the cadets have grown more confident in their abilities. “Everything with JROTC has taught me a lot about myself,” said Kaylee. “I found a lot of strength. It taught me to be proud of myself.”

The JROTC program offers multiple avenues of exploration along with leadership and academics. Students can also try raider, drill, S.T.E.M. opportunities of Robotics, Drone and Cyber Patriot, and rifle teams. Cadets are assigned to the team that best fits their interests and abilities. They insist the program is not simply a ‘military focused’ mindset and instead has provided a much stronger frame of mind.

“When you think about JROTC, you think military,” Madeline explained. “But I relate it more to a life skills class. How to be a better citizen, how to work with what you have, and how to give back to the community.”

Through JROTC and their trip to Washington, D.C., the students also had a deeper understanding of the importance of relationships and teamwork.

“Teammates are definitely important, even through normal life activities,” said Kaylee. Now that she and Bridger have assumed leadership roles with their program, they both insist that teamwork and group effort are critical to achieving their goals.

They all agree the experience has left them with a better understanding of communication. For Kaylee, she admits the time spent in Washington reminded her how important balance is to her overall wellness. While she went in thinking the entire experience had to be serious and focused, she found herself becoming more anxious. “[I learned] you can have fun even if you’re doing something serious.”

Thinking back to last year, they realize the impact of the program. “It was something that didn’t change. I knew it was always going to be there,” said Bridger. Madeline nodded in agreement. “I had JROTC to look forward to. My people were there, and it was my own little outlet,” she said.

As the students made the trip to Washington, fear of the unknown ran through their minds. “I had no idea what I was walking into,” admits Madeline, as this was her first time attending the national competition. For Bridger and Kaylee, they were nervous all of their training would be forgotten.

“My biggest fear was not remembering anything,” admits Bridger. He then reflected on the foundation he learned through JROTC. “Remembering you’re not one person. You’re part of a team.”

The students all rallied around each other, even if they were competing for different schools. “We were all in the auditorium together as they announced the playoffs,” said CSM (Ret) Louk. “There were 16 teams in the country that made the playoffs, and CMCSS had two.”

“Rossview was just as happy that Northwest was in the Top 16,” said MAJ (Ret) Braun, the Rossview High JROTC instructor. While the schools retained their healthy competition, overall, the instructor support drove the students to succeed.

Moving into a new school year, the teams are excited about the potential. Individually the students are hopeful that their peers will find a place in school where they feel comfortable and supported. For them, that place was the JROTC program. “JROTC changed my life for the better,” said Kaylee. She offered her insight to other students. “You’ll learn so many things about yourself, and it will widen your perspective.”