Members of West Lincoln High Schoolâ€™s Navy Junior ROTC have come a long way since the beginning of the school year, especially when it comes to drill maneuvers.
â€œThey couldnâ€™t even hold (the rifles) when they first got them, but now theyâ€™re spinning them up in the air and throwing them over their shoulders,â€ said retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Karl Jordan.
Members of the ROTC have brought home 11 trophies over the course of the year, despite being a new team.
The awards did not come without effort. ROTC students spent many hours after school practicing their skills.
â€œIt hurts when you get hit with (the rifle), but then you want to do better to show people up,â€ said Josh Burrell, a ROTC student.
For those not interested in being part of the drill team, the ROTC offered other opportunities such as fund raising, athletics and organizing the Navy Ball.
Catherine Staley a junior, prefers to work as an administrator for the program, rather than with the drill team.
â€œI donâ€™t like the whole 10 pounds of metal swinging in front of my face,â€ said Catherine.
Sheâ€™s so dedicated she even spends her lunch period recording information.
â€œThe whole JROTC; itâ€™s just a blast,â€ said Catherine. â€œItâ€™s so much fun.â€
Not all students adapted to
the program quite so easily, and some parents also felt resistant to it.
Just like the military, the class emphasizes severe discipline.
â€œThey had to learn you donâ€™t walk in the classroom and give us lip,â€ said Jordan.
Students who misbehave have often been punished with push ups.
A dress code was strictly followed every Wednesday, and students had to make sure their shoes were shined and uniforms were ironed.
Boys had to give up their earrings, long hair and mohawks.
Even with these restrictions, many students have grown fond of their instructors.
â€œI think theyâ€™re great to work with. Theyâ€™re flexible,â€ said Kyle Bostick, a sophomore. â€œThey wonâ€™t force you to do anything unless you promise to do it. Then youâ€™re obligated to do it.â€
Teachers throughout the school have noticed changes in students involved in the program.
â€œThe teachers comment on how well disciplined these students are,â€ said Debra Morris, principal of West Lincoln High.
â€œIâ€™m so proud of these students. I beam every time Iâ€™m around them.â€
The programâ€™s instructors are also proud of their students performance this year.
â€œI couldnâ€™t have asked for more,â€ said retired Coast Guard Chief Bill Shipley.
Of 128 current ROTC students, 98 have signed up to come back into the program.
Some of the students who are graduating this year plan to move on into the military.
â€œIt helped me a lot with my decision,â€ said Josh who plans to join the Navy or the Marine Corps.
Some day, all of Lincoln Countyâ€™s high schools may have JROTC programs.
â€œIt is something that has been a high priority on my list,â€ said Superintendent Jim Watson.by Sarah Grano