MARYSVILLE — The Marysville-Pilchuck High School Naval Junior ROTC seemed to be feeling a bit of a home field advantage at the Olympic Division Northwest Drill and Rifle Competition at the M-PHS campus on Feb. 23.
The M-PHS NJROTC walked away with sixth place in the physical fitness evaluations for male JROTC cadets, as well as fourth place in Color Guard 1, the unarmed drill down, the dual armed exhibition drill and the physical fitness evaluations for female JROTC cadets, while also taking third place in the armed drill down. Marysville scored even higher in the unarmed and armed drills prior to the drill downs, taking second place for their armed drill team, and first place not only for their armed drill team commander, but also their unarmed drill team and commander.
As a result, the M-PHS NJROTC will be represented in the regional competition later this year, in the categories of Color Guard 1, physical fitness evaluations, armed drills and unarmed drills, with Marysville earning the distinction of division champions in the latter category on Feb. 23.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the M-PHS NJROTC cadets were initially drawn to the organization due to their own families’ histories of military service, although some simply found that the program struck their fancy. However, all the cadets who were interviewed agreed that the military aspect of JROTC is only one component of a group whose activities in Marysville have seen them volunteering in avenues ranging from taking up paintbrushes to clean up graffiti in the city’s neighborhoods, to escorting clients of the Marysville Community Food Bank through their shopping lines during especially high-traffic times of the year.
“JROTC opens up gateways,” said Cadet Lt. j.g. Dylan Ahola, a senior in his fourth year with the team. “It instills in you a sense of servitude to your community, citizenship and loyalty.”
Ahola’s father just recently retired from the United States Navy, while Ahola himself would like to become a Naval aviator, but he emphasized that “JROTC helps you out even if you don’t go into the Navy, because whether you go into another branch of service, or into college or technical school, the lessons you learn here will serve you well for life.”
Cadet Lt. j.g. Joshua Buchanan, the current acting executive officer of the M-PHS NJROTC, echoed Ahola in touting the group’s benefits to the broader community. Aside from an uncle who served in the Army, he had no real prior connection to the service, aside from finding the military interesting when he was a kid, but like Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Angenica Corpuz, the current acting commanding officer of the M-PHS NJROTC, he’s found a kinship and a camaraderie within the ranks of his fellow cadets.
“My dad was in the Navy, so I grew up with it even before my sister joined the JROTC here,” said Corpuz, a junior in her second year with the program. “Being part of the JROTC requires a lot of commitment, but it’s like an extended family. Our classroom has become a second home for us, to the point that we don’t want to leave,” she laughed.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Randy Brasfield thanked not only the judges of the competition — including Army and Navy recruiters, the Marines of Whidbey Island, and the midshipmen of the University of Washington Naval ROTC — but also the parents of the JROTC cadets, whom he estimated devote at least as many hours to the organization as their kids.