Behind the Scenes of NJROTC


Photo by Joe Jackson

ROTC’s competition team after winning their Lake Howell Field Mee

Story by Danielle Worthalter, Editor-in-Chief

With more than 400 cadets in the program, Boca High’s NJROTC is a force to be reckoned with. Yet many students aren’t truly aware of how dedicated the students involved in Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps actually are.

At the core of the program are four student officers that run the unit. The very top of the food chain consists of Commanding Officer Kelly Jackson followed by Executive Officer Christopher Vazquez, Operations Officer Annabelle Lilly, and Command Master Chief Leonardo Monfort De Souza.

Under the top four resides the department heads, company commanders, enlisted ranks, petty officers, and seamen recruits and apprentices.

The program is split into six companies, which coincide with the periods of the day, that are named Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot. Company commanders are essentially the teachers of their respective companies and their duties are to lead inspections and educate the enlisted ranks on military history.

“The two main goals of the unit are to do well in all of our competitions and to promote patriotism, leadership, service in every cadet that goes through the program,” said Jackson.

Our NJROTC unit has been instated since 1994 and has won the national title twice in 2011 and 2015, as well as the state title a total of five times.

“Being a national champion isn’t something I ever thought that I would be able to be,” said Jackson.

In order to maintain their national title, NJROTC cadets train before, during, and after school. Every day of the week, cadets arrive at 6:30 in the morning to train for their next competition. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays cadets are working on pushups, situps, and drill. Tuesdays consist of running practice and Thursdays are reserved for academics, which is the study of military history.

“During the day we either do physical training, drill in the courtyard, or we’ll read about military history, naval history, the government, or laws from our textbooks,” said Jon Middlebrooks, Delta Company Commander.

Those who are even more engaged in the program stay after school to participate in other areas. The three main areas that are competed in are Orienteering, Marksmanship, and Engineering. In simple terms, orienteering is the navigation of unfamiliar terrain, marksmanship is an event involving shooting at a bullseye, and engineering builds and competes underwater robots, works with drones, and defends from computer hacking.

“[Orienteering] is very easy to learn because it’s kind of like a scavenger hunt,” said Shannon Hourigan, Administrations Officer.

In terms of community outreach, NJROTC is an organization unlike any other. Just last school year, the unit documented more than 15,000 hours of service and individual officers, like Annabelle Lilly, have even accumulated up to 400 hours through the program. NJROTC volunteers at many community service events from the Embrace Race at FAU to the George Snow Foundation’s Ballroom Battle. Outside of acquiring service hours, the program engages with the community by hosting Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies at the Boca Raton cemetery.

NJROTC brings together the past and future of the military by being taught by instructors like LT. Colonel Powers, Master Chief Sosa, Senior Chief Core, and Chief Morales, who have extensive military background as well as creating connections with war veterans in the area.

“Our instructors are trying to get us to have a more worldly view of things and a more open mind,” said Jackson. “I’ve been able to connect with people who are veterans and have much broader perspectives.”

NJROTC is a far reaching program that is dedicated to serving our community and creating informed and responsible citizens.

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