TACOMA, Wash. - The sounds of gasping breath, cheers from the crowd and shouts of encouragement filled the air as the teenage students crossed the finish line at the end of a two-mile run. Some could barely breathe, giving all their effort to the run, while others crossed the finish line with little effort, making the challenge look easy. This was no high school track meet but the third event of an Army Physical Fitness Test. The events of the annual Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps field day would continue to test the students mentally and physically.
About 100 JROTC students, guided by Army Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, participated in the “Lute Fair” at Pacific Lutheran College March 9. The JROTC students came from all across the state to compete in the event. The JROTC is a high school based program while the ROTC is at the college level.
“My dad was in the Navy, he told me that I could have any job I wanted and explained the benefits of belonging to the military and that’s the route I’ve chosen,” said James Ketola, JROTC student at Graham-Kapowsin High school, Graham, Wash.
“I’ve always been interested in the military, so I decided that joining the JROTC would be the best path in high school to prepare me for that,” said Ketola.
The JROTC program is not used as a recruiting tool but to “instill in students in secondary educational institutions the values of citizenship, service to the United States, and personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment,” according to Title 10, Section 2031 of the U.S. Code. While the program is not a recruiting tool it gives students a view of what the military can offer.
The day started with an APFT consisting of the maximum number of push-ups a student could do in two minutes, the maximum number of sit-ups in two minutes followed by a two-mile run. After the APFT, the students were ushered over to an open quad where a pull-up event, tire flip challenge, inert grenade toss and litter carry awaited them.
Retired Lt. Col Gary Muglestln, senior Army JROTC instructor, East Valley High School in Yakima, brought his team out to compete in the competition with hopes of winning and teaching his students a few things.
“We want everyone to have fun; we want these students to stay motivated and stay in shape so that they are better citizens,” said Muglestln. “That is our thing [JROTC], we are supposed to get them to become better citizens. When we have kids that are out of shape across this country, that’s when we need to get them involved in programs like this.”
Muglestln was once a battalion commander on a training base where he witnessed young warriors joining the Army who were out of shape and lacking in proper leadership skills. Now he does everything he can to help change that situation by motivating and teaching high school students through his school’s JROTC program.
The JROTC students wrapped up the day with a workshop that had representatives from the military branches and local colleges allowing the students to ask questions about the possibilities after high school.
The goal for the ROTC at the “Lute Fair” is to make sure that all the students enjoy themselves through friendly competition while taking the opportunity to experience a glimpse of life outside their school. We want to encourage young men and women to seek excellence beyond high school either in the military or by pursuing further education, said Lt. Col. Jason Shrader, professor of military science at Pacific Lutheran University.