SCHWEINFURT, Germany - The Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or JROTC, is a program aimed at developing the youth of our nation by instilling values of citizenship, service, and responsibility, according to the Army JROTC Web site.

Local cadets of the JROTC program at Bamberg Middle High School (BMHS) have worked hard to emanate these characteristics and just recently, their efforts were recognized, as they solidified a spot in the JROTC Leadership Team and Academic Bowl (JLAB), an annual George C. Marshall leadership symposium.

Five cadet leaders from BMHS, three of them U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt community members, will head to George Mason University in Washington for the conference in June.

The USAG Schweinfurt-based students who will attend are tenth-graders Cadet/Sgt. Lauren Moyer and Cadet/Staff Sgt. Brice Burchett; and eleventh-grader Cadet/1LT Alexis Jennings.

"We are the 15th Army JROTC Battalion, under 2nd Brigade. Our brigade got to send four teams, one from each of four divisions. We won first place for all division II schools, made up of DoDDs-E JROTC programs and all programs in the northeast of the U.S. from New Jersey to Maine," said Maj. (Ret.) Madonna Roberts, senior Army instructor for the JROTC program at BMHS, highlighting that this is the first year Bamberg has earned a spot.

Roberts explained that 48 teams get to attend the conference out of the thousands who competed from JROTC programs all around the world.

"There are two different tests the students take to qualify. Most are online. After the first test, the top 50 percent make it to the second round. Our students scored an 89 percent during the second round to win the slot at JLAB," said Roberts.

The five-day symposium will integrate a series of leadership sessions, round table discussions, and student presentations.

"At the end, students may be divided into platoons and present on the George C. Marshall leadership principles. It's so impressive and gives them hands on learning, relating leadership skills to real life situations," she added.

The intent of the conference is for students to leave with an enhanced understanding of the leadership, selfless service, and character that General Marshall embraced, and according to Roberts, it aims to support and reflect the common mission of all JROTC programs, which is to "to motivate young people to be better citizens."

"Our leadership team competed against teams from 2,300 JROTC programs to win selection to attend the symposium. ... and I was especially impressed by the dedication of our Schweinfurt students who stayed after school to study and managed to stay on top of their normal homework assignments despite their late arrival home," said Roberts.

As these USAG Schweinfurt based cadets look forward to many great things to come, they credit their positive experiences to their decision to join JROTC.

"I joined JROTC to become a better leader with good character. JROTC is teaching me self-discipline that helps me reach that goal. When I heard we (the leadership team) were going to D.C., that boosted my confidence," said Moyer, who performs publicity operations as the battalion's S-5.

"I earned friendship and respect from everyone and every day I look forward to helping someone out," said Jennings, who now services as personnel officer, or battalion S-1.

When the cadets aren't prepping for a leadership conference, the battalion, made up of 70 student cadets, executes tasks modeling an active-duty Army battalion, assigning students to positions of a battalion commander, a command sergeant major, executive officer, staff, and so on. They cadets perform monthly activities to include awards promotion ceremonies, platoon drill team practice, staff briefings, volunteer work, color guard performances, and much more.

Last year, their program was awarded the Honor Unit with Distinction Rating and Gold Star award, which is the highest recognition possible for JROTC programs, and the first time in Bamberg's JROTC 28-year history to receive the distinction.

"The JROTC curriculum is so pro-future. We really work on academics with our cadets and promote hard work. ... I'm extremely proud of these cadets," said Roberts.

"It's been a very rewarding experience that has taught me more than just to march. It completely changed my life," Burchett concluded.