By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tucker M. Yates, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest
April 19, 2010 - OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Marines and Sailors representing three commands on Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island assisted Oak Harbor High School (OHHS) with the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Northwest Drill and Rifle Conference Championships April 17.
In support of the program, more than 25 Sailors and Marines from Fleet Readiness Center Northwest (FRC NW), Marine Aviation Training Support Group (MATSG) 53 and Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit (CNATTU) Whidbey Island oversaw a physical readiness test-style competition, inspected drill teams and judged the color guard, armed and unarmed drill teams and the drill down competitions.
"[The JROTC] program really helped me out when I was in school. I have really fond memories of what I went through, so I figured it would be a really good experience, not just for myself, but to try to get different people from different ranks and different levels of experience to be on this side, which is totally different," said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Pamela Velez, assigned to FRC NW, from Denver. "I talked to most of these people, and it just caught their interest. Most of them have never been part of JROTC, but they just wanted to help out, and I'm really proud of them."
"The Marines and the Navy from NAS Whidbey Island really helped out quite a bit. The Marines are experts at judging these contests because they do it all the time. This happens to be the big conference championships, so there's a little bit more significance to it, but they do it on a regular basis in our season meets as well," said retired Cmdr. Mike Black, OHHS senior Naval Science instructor. "We are particularly pleased to have them here today; we couldn't do this drill meet without them."
The event marked the conclusion of a season that started in December 2009 consisting of four regular meets and the final championship. More than 600 students in 28 teams from three divisions representing Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy JROTC programs qualified to compete in one or more of the 12 events held during the competition.
"The program isn't necessarily about putting kids into the military, but it's about good citizenship, leadership and healthy lifestyles. That's why I think it's important to do this, and this is the fun portion, the kids like doing this stuff. I think this is the kind of thing that keeps them coming back and getting involved in the program and because they do I think we can have a pretty good impact on them," said Black. "We're one of the few programs that without apologies teach values; honor, courage, commitment, teamwork, self-discipline, physical fitness, integrity, character, that's what we do and I think it's well worth it."
"The motivation of all the cadets was outstanding; everyone tried their hardest. It's a great thing for these kids to learn leadership and civic skills that they don't get normally," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Keith Summerill, acting sergeant major of MATSG 53 and Marine liaison for CNATTU Whidbey Island, from Apopka, Fla.
"I could see that they really were taking it seriously, and I think they appreciated all the hard work the kids were doing to get ready for them, too," said Dr. Rick Schulte, Oak Harbor School District superintendent.
"We get great help from the Navy partnership and we're pleased to have them on our campus when they can come," said Dwight Lundstrom, OHHS principal.
"These are the best of the best. It really made me proud to see all of the great things our kids are doing, not just the Oak Harbor kids, but the kids from all the different ROTC units across the area," said Schulte. "This today was really an example of the high caliber of kids we have in our schools. I think it's most impressive when you have a group of young men and women like that."
The overall winners of the competition were the team from Shelton High School in third, OHHS in second and South Kitsap High School in first. OHHS finish marked the highest placement in the last 10 years according to retired Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic-Hydraulics (AW) William Thiel, the event coordinator and an OHHS Naval Science instructor.