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The Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training (Army JROTC) program continues to explore new avenues for growth and connection with high school students. One big step this year has been the addition of archery into the JROTC programs.
On Thursday, May 12, over 100 high school JROTC Cadets from across the country competed in the first ever JROTC Eastern Championship hosted by the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) in Louisville, Ky. Cadets from 13 different high schools were scored on six different rounds–three from 10 meters and three from 15 meters– taking aim at the opportunity to walk away with a trophy and be part of this inaugural JROTC event.
“It brings together a lot of the skills that they’ve learned and that we’ve been teaching them in JROTC about being better citizens, engaging and being a team member, learning self-discipline, and practicing,” said Lt. Col. Casey Geist, director of leader development and education for U.S. Army Cadet Command. “They’re applying these skills and it allows them to actually see the results on a target, see their scores, and let it come through in a competition.”
The majority of these schools just received equipment and began practicing at the beginning of 2022. They’ve taken big steps in a short amount of time as trailblazers in this new program.
“We’re here because we worked hard enough to make it to this national level, and we worked for months to get to this level,” said William Nelson, a freshman from Zachary High School in Zachary, La.
With a short timeline to prepare, many of the teams threw themselves into practicing anywhere from two to four days a week to get ready for upcoming events.
The pressure of being prepared, coupled with competition doesn’t seem to phase many of these Cadets. They see it as an opportunity to grow both as individuals and as a team.
“We’re new to this and in the following years it’s going to be exciting to go to more competitions and build our team,” said Cami Crist, a sophomore from Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg, Va. “Going to this event is important to get a feel for everything and know what it’s like for the future.”
With the addition of archery into JROTC programs and the prospect of adding air rifle and robotics teams into the mix, many of the Cadets have seen an influx of interested students walking into the JROTC classrooms.
“I’ve seen the program growing and growing,” said Sterling Steinberger, a sophomore from Zachary High School in Zachary, La. “We had not a whole lot of freshmen come in my freshman year, and then when this year came and, like, half the battalion were freshman, and it just grew exponentially.”
Geist sees additions like archery and robotics into JROTC as something that continues to uphold the program’s ideology of building better citizens.
“What we really want to produce are those non-cognitive skills that you learn from being a member of a team, getting out practicing, and then engaging the entire group,” he said. “We are exploring a lot of co-curriculars, and what we can do with different ones such as robotics, cyber, stem, and air rifle. [Archery] is just another thing that young kids are interested in, that they want to do, and be a part of a team.”
The team aspect is what many of these Cadets list as the reason they plan to continue in JROTC throughout high school.
“I get to hang out with my family, the ROTC archery team that I came here with. This is my family away from my family. If I’m not feeling stuff at home, I can come here and this is my secondary home,” said Steinberger.
As the event began, the Cadets were excited to compete and came prepared to step up to the line, putting all their training to good use.
“I feel like archery is something that a lot of people can pick up and it creates a community around JROTC,” said Nelson. “That’s what we really want. We want to create a community.”
About Army ROTC
Army ROTC is one of the best leadership courses in the country and is part of your college curriculum. Through classes and field training, Army ROTC provides you with the tools to become an Army Officer without interfering with your other classes. ROTC also provides you with discipline and money for tuition while enhancing your college experience.
Army ROTC offers pathways to becoming an Army Officer for high school students, current active duty Soldiers, and for current National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers through the Simultaneous Membership Program.