JROTC had their annual military inspection on Nov. 15 at Gupton Stadium in order to make sure that the instructors are correctly administering the program and that the students are correctly executing the elements of the program. The Lonestar company earned second place out of companies in the entire state.
“Our students get evaluated on their knowledge,” JROTC Commander Rick Hamblet said. “They get quizzed orally. They have to perform drill and that gets evaluated and then there’s a ceremonial phase where we demonstrate our team’s capabilities. In the afternoon, the guest and speaker comes in and talks with our cadets. It’s very much a student-led inspection where the students get to brag about what their responsibilities are, how well they do them, and how prepared they are to do those responsibilities.”
The cadets are required to maintain personal hygiene ranging from their uniforms to their hair. Boys must have short hair that doesn’t flop in their eyes while girls must have slicked back hair. There cannot be stains on anything and pants must be tailored.
“In the personal inspection, you had to look like you knew that there was going to be AMI that day and like you wanted to represent your school well,” freshman Meghna Vergis said. “In the beginning, right before we went out to Gupton, we were doing self-evaluations of our uniforms, and our hygiene and all that stuff. It became painfully apparent who had forgotten to do certain things. Some people had haircuts that weren’t quite up to par. Overall, that was really the only thing noticeable to me because most of my time was spent stressing a lot.”
The students also perform a drill, which they have practiced. They needed to remain in step and in alignment. They are also required to maintain a military bearing meaning they shouldn’t look confused and remain professional at all times.
“It’s kind of hard to stay standing at attention for a really long time,” Vergis said. “Even though we were technically at parade rest, it’s still very nerve-wracking. So, I’d say, in the beginning, it was very scary but once we actually got to the inspections and got individual parts over with I, at least, relaxed a bit. Once you get to the drill card, you can shake off those nerves.”
The students are evaluated based on a point system. The teachers are completely removed from the process. Independent evaluators, including active duty, Navy, and Marine service members, came in and were provided the inspection sheet and criteria. They formed their own opinions and evaluations based on the students’ performance.
“Tension,” Hamblet said. “The students are nervous. We train them hard to try and put it so they are relaxed. Anyways, the students elevate their game, so to speak, and they rise to their expectations and they rise to the occasion. I think when they’re finished, it’s a huge sigh of relief and collectively, they’re just relieved and satisfied with a job well done.”
After inspection and evaluations were complete, an award ceremony was held. Awards such as the Best Platoon award and the Bravo Zulu award were handed out.
“We won Best Platoon and we had, I think, four different people get the Bravo Zulu medal which was neat,” Vergis said. “I don’t remember if we were at attention or parade rest, but we weren’t allowed to move. But I think all of us were kind of smiling. We were happy. The thing about competing in anything is no matter how well you think you did, you know everything that you did wrong and it gets in your head. So, I didn’t really think I was going to win anything, at all. Everyone has the same, pretty much the same, things that they have to be doing. It’s just that some cadets do the things they’re supposed to be doing with more vigor or more consistency. That’s what really separates us.”
JROTC is often misconstrued as an intense military based program focused on recruitment. However, while there are military components, there is more to the program. While athletics do come into play, the program also has an academic program allowing a variety of students to participate
“It’s a voluntary class,” Hamblet said. “We don’t put kids in the military. We’re not a recruiting program but I think the biggest thing to know is that when students come to JROTC, there is a support network and a structure in place here to help students. The biggest thing is we want them to get involved and participate in the activities the program offers. Our goal is to produce citizens. This is a citizenship development program.”
Although the annual military inspection is complete until next year, JROTC has their annual military ball coming up. They also support various other events and programs, such as the Food Bank, the Special Olympics and the city of Cedar Park through community service and civic engagement.
“I take great appreciation and tremendous satisfaction just watching the students perform,” Hamblet said. “Like any teacher, you’re proud of your students. You’re proud when they learn and it’s really exciting to see them go out there and overcome their fears. It’s a huge growth moment for all the students and their self-confidence.”