CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets of Zama Middle High School’s Trojan Battalion collectively earned more than 450 awards this year—and their goal next year is to aim even higher.
In addition to the cadets being recognized for their accolades, many of them were also promoted both in rank and position during the battalion’s end-of-year ceremony held Friday at the ZMHS auditorium here.
The ceremony capped off a year that included the Trojan Battalion winning the Far East Division II drill meet and placing third in a two-day marksmanship competition in January.
“I was overjoyed to see my comrades come up to the stage and be awarded for their hard work,” Cadet Lt. Col. Roman Romero said. “We had a goal in front of us at the start of the school year, and it’s great to see everything we’ve accomplished and how successful we’ve been.”
Romero, a junior, is a JROTC veteran, though this was his first year in the program at ZMHS. He will enter his senior year as the unit’s new battalion commander after taking over for Cadet Lt. Col. Bryan Ponce.
Ponce, who spent all four years in JROTC with the Trojans, helped his battalion earn the title of “Honor Unit With Distinction,” the program’s highest achievement. Following his graduation next month, Ponce will attend Jacksonville University in Florida on a U.S. Navy ROTC scholarship.
“I’ve been honored to serve in this leadership position and take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented to me,” Ponce said. “Learning so much from this program has changed, and will continue to change, my life.”
Addressing his fellow cadets, Ponce encouraged them to continue helping the battalion to excel, particularly as they prepare next year for the JROTC Program Accreditation inspection, or JPA, a rigorous undertaking JROTC units must complete every three years.
“I challenge you all to take the work you have done this year and continue to work even harder next year,” Ponce said. “I feel confident in you all as leaders to take what you have learned ... and put it all toward not only passing the inspection, but earning the highest score out of all of the programs.”
The ceremony began with the cadets receiving the many awards they each earned in academic, athletic and military categories, as well as individual recognitions such as the Military Officers Association of America JROTC Medal, awarded to Romero, and the Superior Cadet Decoration Award, given to three cadets in their respective Leadership and Education Training levels, or LET.
“I’m glad to see that everyone’s work paid off,” Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Emerson Moore, the battalion’s new command sergeant major, said. “We spent so much time and work this past year to get to this moment, and I’m just glad everything went really well.”
The ceremony also included more than 20 cadets receiving promotions. Parents were invited to the stage to help affix the new rank onto their son or daughter’s uniform, while retired Lt. Col. Douglas Fields, the school’s senior Army instructor, assisted.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Keith Joell, assigned to the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, was at the ceremony to help promote his son, Cadet Cpl. Geovanni Joell, and said he was proud of him and the other cadets for stepping up and being leaders in their school.
Geovanni is the latest to continue in his family’s long history of military service. Just last year, Geovanni’s older brother, Ke’Shaun, joined the Army. Joell administered Ke’Shaun’s oath of enlistment on Camp Zama, the same place he enlisted from nearly 20 years earlier.
“I’m proud of [Geovanni] that he was willing to take the step to join JROTC,” Joell said. “He’s in line now to go on to the ROTC program when he graduates and will become the first ‘officer Joell’ in the ranks.”
New cadet senior leaders were also promoted. The ceremony concluded with both the battalion and its Alpha and Bravo companies welcoming the new commanders, command sergeants major and first sergeants with a traditional passing of a flag known as a guidon.
Fields praised Romero, the new commander, for his stellar leadership and dedication to the JROTC program.
“Having previously served as the battalion operations sergeant major, [Roman] is, without a doubt, the right person to assume command and lead this great organization,” Fields said. “He has become an integral part of this organization and has the ability to lead it to even higher heights.”
Taking on the role of battalion commander is an honor, Romero said, and he is up to the challenge of helping the Trojans succeed during next year’s JROTC Program Accreditation inspection.
“[The JPA] is going to be a very big challenge that everyone has agreed to work toward,” Romero said. “And when we reach success and we are able to claim ‘Honor Unit With Distinction’ again, it will be a very empowering for all the cadets to take with them.”
Moore, the battalion’s new command sergeant major, attributed her unit’s ongoing success to the cadets’ leadership and teamwork. She said she has ambitious goals for the program going into next year.
“I hope to make the battalion better,” Moore said. “More than that, I want to just keep making leaders. The world always needs more leaders.”