JROTC members earn honors | SLIDESHOW

MARYSVILLE — The Arlington High School Air Force Junior ROTC earned itself distinction in a number of categories at the Olympic Division Northwest Drill and Rifle Competition at Marysville-Pilchuck High School on Feb. 23, but even as its cadets took pride in their accomplishments, they agreed that they need more members to keep their program vital.

AHS AFJROTC Cadet Senior Airmen Isaac Sandoval and Erica Saldana took fifth and sixth place, respectively, in the physical fitness evaluations for male and female JROTC cadets, while Cadet Senior Airman Amber Blankenship and Cadet 1st Lt. Ariel Taylor took third place in the dual armed exhibition drill, and the AHS AFJROTC Color Guard took fourth in the Color Guard 2 category. However, the total cadet count for the AHS AFJROTC currently stands at barely more than 100, and its armed drill team for the Feb. 23 competition numbered only five members, including Taylor and Blankenship.

“A cadet count of only 103 is really low,” said Cadet 2nd Lt. Caleb Burns, who serves as commander of the AHS AFJROTC marksmanship team that was just started this school year. “Yes, these competitions make for long days — we’re looking at a minimum of 12 hours each time — and especially in my first year as commander of a team that’s in its own first year, it’s going to be challenging, but it’s so rewarding to see the teams improving and everything coming together.”

Arlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1561 provided 10 rifles and 12 spotting scopes to the marksmanship team through a $3,200 grant from the NRA, fulfilling a dream of Burns’ since he first decided to join the AHS AFJROTC in eighth grade, but what’s kept him in the group through his intervening four years of high school have been the same aspects that Saldana and Cadet Senior Airman Carolina Garcia cited as positive experiences.

“Everyone gets along,” said Saldana, a sophomore who joined the AHS AJROTC this school year. “We didn’t know each other at first, but we got to know each other so quickly that we became comfortable around each other. We’re like a family now.”

“From the first day I met her, it was like she was my sister,” said Garcia, a freshman, of her “best friend” and fellow first-year cadet, Saldana. “We even have team dinners before our competitions that we all call ‘family dinners.’”

Saldana and Garcia not only joined Burns in praising their JROTC instructors — retired Air Force Maj. Mike Blue and Master Sgt. Alvin Moore — for the kinship, stimulating conversations and laughter that they foster, but also credited their lessons and camaraderie with teaching them the skills of leadership, cooperation, self-reliance and responsibility.

“Practices can be tough, because if one person messes up, we have to go over all of it again,” Garcia said. “But when you work hard and get promoted for it, it gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

“Our teachers are awesome and everyone likes each other,” Burns said. “Everyone is there because they want to be there. JROTC is not just a military recruiter. I love the military aspect of it, but you also get school credits out of it.”

“The aerospace classes are difficult for me, but it’s worth it,” Garcia said. “We stick together. We’re the U.S. Air Force. Nothing can stop us.”


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