On a chilly and breezy Friday afternoon, cadets of the Richmond Hill High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps practiced their drill routines. Rifles twirled in the air and medals gleamed in the sun.
The cadets practiced the precise drills which brought home a sweeping win at JROTC state competition on March 24 at Fort Gordon.
Cadet Major Carmen Camacho and Cadet Major William Welzer command the Wildcats JROTC Battalion Drill Team.
They were a part of the group which visited Fort Gordon and brought back four first place trophies and one third place finish.
Approximately 75 RHHS cadets went to the competition and over 1,000 cadets from all over Georgia competed at Fort Gordon.
Camacho and Welzer have been with the JROTC program for four years. Both said they joined the program to overcome shyness.
Camacho said JROTC has given her important tools, which she will be able to take with far beyond high-school and college — skills like organization, discipline and leadership.
But friendship and teamwork are a very important part of the program as well, the cadets said.
The JROTC program is overseen by retired Lieutenant Colonel Rob Rooker and retired Sergeant Major Robert Bradley, but it is led by the students themselves.
“The mission of the program is to teach cadets to be better citizens. It is not there to recruit, but to create a better understanding of the military,” Welzer explained.
Cadets are given the opportunity to work in various positions during their time JROTC, and Camacho and Welzer are both teachers and mentors in the Richmond Hill program.
Last semester, Camacho worked in Operations and Planning (S3), which is responsible for organizing field trips and other events.
Welzer is currently the Battalion’s executive officer, or XO. As such, he is responsible for many things including the organization of the classroom and creating lesson plans for the week.
Not only is JROTC active during the school year, but there are summer camps where Richmond Hill cadets meet cadets from different schools. It is a place to share their experiences and make new connections.
The cadets said that JROTC can help teens find structure as well.
“When things don’t seem like they are going well for you, JROTC is the home a lot of kids can come to,” Welzer said. “It can show them organization, discipline and leadership skills, which they can take out to the real world, and be successful.”