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Cadets’ hard work pays off

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Los Alamos High School’s NJROTC students bring home several first-place trophies

By Jennifer Garcia

Los Alamos High School Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps students and instructors have a lot to celebrate. They brought home a total of 10 first place awards from the Four Corners Drill Meet in Farmington, which took place Oct. 22.

As a group, the students placed first in armed drill, color guard, unarmed drill; female physical fitness, overall physical fitness, male physical fitness and were awarded the sweepstakes trophy for best performing unit overall. Personal awards included first place in the following categories: Half-mile run overall individual male physical fitness; individual female sit-ups and individual male sit-ups.

The students put in long hours preparing for the meet and their hard work seems to have paid off.  
NJROTC Training Officer Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Partin, who’s been in the NJROTC for two years, said the group did two-a-day practices in an effort to prepare for the competition, which sometimes proved to be challenging for him because he also has a part-time job. The group held the first practice from 6:30-8 a.m. and practiced again after school from 3:30-5 p.m.

“We did very good,” Partin said of the team’s performance. “It was our first drill meet of the year and we have an exceptionally young team. I didn’t think they’d do that well,” he said.

LAHS senior and NJROTC Executive Officer, Lt. David Nielsen said the team’s performance was “astounding.”

“We got seven first place trophies,” he said. “This is the first time I commanded an armed exhibit and the first time I was a squad leader.”

He said placing first in both events on the first try was a confidence boost for him and he’s excited about leaving his mark on the unit and setting the bar higher for the cadets to come. Nielsen has been a part of the NJROTC for all four of his years at LAHS and said it’s been a fun experience.

“It’s the best thing I could have signed up for,” he said. “It’s changed my outlook on life.”
NJROTC Command Chief, Senior Chief Petty Officer Jodi Cull-Host has been part of the NJROTC for three years and took over as commander of the group two weeks before the Four Corners Drill Meet.

“It was stressful. It took a lot of work, but it was pretty fun,” she said of the preparation the group went through prior to the meet.

She said the greatest obstacle she faced was trying to create an exhibition card and command a drill team.

“We had to fabricate a routine with no prior knowledge,” she said. However, she said the discipline and camaraderie the team exhibits helped get them through the routine.

“We all did good. All of us together made the success happen,” Cull-Host said.
LAHS Naval Science Instructor Gunnery Sgt. (Ret.) Bret Painter coaches the drill team and said he was pleased with the group’s performance, as well.

“Having 43 cadets get on the bus and show unity is the best part,” Painter said. “It’s not just about drill or PT. The students went because they wanted to go.”

Painter has high hopes for the future of the present and future NJROTC cadets. He said 60 percent of the current cadets are freshmen, so he’s expecting that the group will do even better in the future.

“There’s always room for improvement. Just because you won first doesn’t mean you’re the greatest thing since jeans have pockets,” Painter said.

He also said that he thinks it’s great that students take his class and has received positive comments about his cadets from instructors and other parents at drill meets.

“They put a lot of time and effort (into preparation),” Painter said. “They spent a lot of hours practicing.”

He said he enjoys seeing the cadets work together, follow orders and help each other. “They’re working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves,” he said of the cadets’ efforts during competition and practice.

LAHS Naval Science Instructor Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Shumaker coaches the NJROTC’s shooting team and said he was also pleased with the group’s performance in Farmington.

“It’s always good to win. It’s important to see different groups pull for each other and support each other,” he said.

Shumaker has been teaching and coaching the shooting team for eight years and said he’s seeing improvement in the team.

“Things have gotten better,” he said. “There have been higher placings in competition. This year has been the best.”

Shumaker said part of the challenge is getting the cadets to commit themselves to being part of the team.
In addition to the Four Corners Drill meet, the group also has done well in more recent competitions.

“They brought home quite a number of trophies from the Golden Anchor competition,” Shumaker said. “ At NMMI (New Mexico Military Institute) they did well on fitness and air rifle, and the precision air rifle team did very well.”

He said the team has received a payoff for their time and effort in practice in the form of trophies. He also said the shooting team will compete in the Secretary of the Navy Postal this week, which will determine whether the group gets to travel to Alabama to compete in the Navy National Championship in February.