By Heather Wilburn, Fort BlissDecember 5, 2008
FORT BLISS, Texas--"It can be intimidating, but it's good for us. It's good to have them out here because they really do make us better," said Cadet Lt. Col. Guillermo Montoya.
The "them" Montoya was speaking of were the more than 30 U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Soldiers tasked with grading the Ysleta Independent School District Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps Drill Meet, held Nov. 15 at Eastwood High School in El Paso, Texas.
"They'll tell us what we get wrong, what we get right, what to improve on - it's a big help for the next competition," continued Montoya, commander of the Parkland High School Army JROTC Armed Drill Team.
The Soldiers, all students in USASMA's Sergeants Major Course Class 59, came to the drill meet to review almost 300 cadets from seven high schools: Bel Aire, Del Valle, Eastwood, Hanks, Parkland, Riverside and Ysleta.
YISD incorporated the Class 59 students into the event because, according to retired Command Sgt. Maj. Gavin Tunderman, the district's assistant director of Army instruction, "they're the experts."
"They're senior noncommissioned officers that have come up through the channels of the noncommissioned officer corps," he said. "They understand what drill and ceremony is, they understand the acronyms we teach our cadets - they're the subject-matter experts."
The Class 59 students graded armed and unarmed drill teams, color guards and physical training teams from each school, but the Soldiers served another function, as well.
"These [cadets] are lucky," Tunderman said. "It's important for these students to see a master sergeant, a sergeant major, in uniform, and see how well they represent the Army. The [Soldiers] have a better understanding of what [the cadets are] going through, and if the students want to ask questions ... these noncommissioned officers, these sergeants major, are the experts."
"I think this is a great opportunity, especially for me, because I'm from El Paso," said Master Sgt. Roberto Marshall, a Class 59 student. "I graduated from El Paso High, and I was in ROTC, so it's good to be here and help them out and see the quality of Soldiers that we're soon to get. It's a good experience."
Marshall graded Riverside cadets in the one-mile run, and said they're "looking good."
"They're outstanding," he said. "Some of them are pushing it and running better than some of the Soldiers that are on active duty. I can't wait to get them."
Sgt. Maj. Anthony Wright, also a Class 59 student, graded the one-mile run with Marshall.
"They're definitely in better shape than we were when I was younger," he said. "I'm impressed. I think they're going to be fine Soldiers if they decided to go into the military."
Wright said he, too, was a cadet in high school and enjoyed grading the meet. "I think this is great," he said. "It's an honor to come back and serve the community this way."
"I think it's great to get to come out here and work with the cadets," said Master Sgt. Thomas Carter, another Class 59 student who spent high school as a JROTC cadet. "These are possibly the newest members of the Army or the armed forces, and you get to come out here and be a part of their lives and hope to impart some of you experience.
"I think it's important to be part of the community," he added. "We're Soldiers, but also citizens."