Mini boot camp brought an early end to summer break for members of J.W. Mitchell High's Navy JROTC program. While others were enjoying their last days of sleeping in last week, cadets such as Lt. Cmdr. Brianna Glynn, 17, were up and at it at 0700 hours.
"Basically I'm trying to make sure everything's going right," said Glynn, who is taking on her new role as third in the chain of command under instructors, retired Navy Cmdr. Steve Okun and Marine Gunnery Sgt. Freddie Jones. "We're basically trying to cram everything we know into three days."
Among her boot camp duties: showing 70 or so incoming freshmen the intricacies of their new uniforms before heading over to the tennis courts to oversee returning cadets getting a refresher on military marching so they wouldn't set a poor example for new recruits.
"Some of the cadets get a little rusty over the summer months," Okun said. "We don't want the freshmen learning their mistakes."
While there's marching and pushups and a run around the school tennis courts, JROTC boot camp is a lot less stressful than the real thing or anything you might have seen in the movies, Okun said.
"We're just taking some new cadets who have no background and giving them the initial basics; learning about the uniform — how to shine your shoes; saying 'sir' and 'ma'am' and getting them into the physical fitness mode."
Over the coming months, cadets will learn and perform various campus duties — presenting the nation's colors as members of the Honor Guard, ushering in uniform, directing traffic and helping with set-ups and break-downs for big events. There's also academic classroom instruction and competitions, physical fitness training and weekend field meets.
Add to that, lessons in etiquette.
"At the end of the year, we have a military ball," said Cadet Senior Chief Warner Van Os, 17. "So we learn things like what to do with your napkin when you go to the restroom, how to cut meat, how to eat soup."
"Basically we want to help mold and define them," Okun said. "We want them to have manners, and a sense of pride in themselves and in their country. We want them to have the will to succeed no matter what the obstacles are, whether it's physical or mental."
Seven years ago, Mitchell's JROTC was barely making the quota of 100 students needed to retain a program, said Jones. "This year, there are about 190 (students) in the program, and we have 40 to 50 waiting to get in."
JROTC has been a saving grace for Cadet Lt. Zachary Boger, 17. He readily admits that just a few years ago he was heading down the wrong path. Now he's leading cadets through cadence runs and serving as a role model as an executive officer.
"I was a bad kid in middle school," Boger said. "I had 38 referrals in my eighth-grade year. I was disrespectful to my teachers, to my peers, to my family. I was a well-known bully around the school.
"Then the (JROTC) instructors came over and I heard them talk and I signed up. In ninth grade, my life changed. I turned it around and now I signed a contract for the Marine Corps. I leave June 7 for Paris Island."
Not everyone who goes through JROTC will opt for a career in the military, Jones said, and that's okay.
"Our job is to prepare our cadets for the next step — whether it's in the military or in college or in the workforce."