Naval ROTC meet provides bridge to high school cadets

For high-school naval cadets, it was about vying for the top trophy, showing school spirit and community pride. But for USF’s Naval ROTC, it was an opportunity to promote USF’s newest ROTC.

At USF’s first annual Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps field meet Saturday, 21 Florida high schools displayed basic military knowledge through various drills, fitness activities and military exams.

Coordinating a high school field meet at USF will hopefully put USF’s NROTC on the map, Reynel Saa, senior midshipmen captain said. USF’s battalion, which was established in the summer of 2002, has 52 cadet members but hopes to almost double that number in the next 12 months, said USF midshipman first class Zack Simms.

The NJROTC field meet was a win-win situation for USF’s NROTC and the participating high schools, said Hank Allen, a USF Naval lieutenant. Allen said the field meet is a good experience for USF’s NROTC because they did the legwork for the event. The high school students, on the other hand, get a chance to develop their military skills, compete for various medals and show school spirit.

Although Florida is considered a huge state for NJROTC, only 21 high schools were allowed to compete Saturday, said Robert Hess, USF’s Gunnery Sergeant. So, on a first come first served basis, the schools that wanted to participate were invited, he said.

As the event coordinators, USF’s NROTC also served as judges for the competition along with local U.S. Navy and Marine recruiters.

Similar to USF’s NROTC squad, each high school program did their share of planning and preparation.

John Tixier, a junior at Gaither High School and senior chief petty officer, said their school has taken a year off from other competitions in order to practice for Saturday’s meet.

Boca Raton High School placed first in the overall competition, with Flanagan High School from Pembroke Pines in second and Central High School in third place.

Each school demonstrated eight basic drill events. They include the unarmed and armed drill, in which a small group of students perform drill movements with and without rifles, as well as exhibition drills, which are both unarmed and armed.

Hess said the exhibition drills are like a trick drills. Students are given an opportunity to show off their military skills.

Other events in the meet included the color guard competition, where four students from each school present various marching, flag and rifle movements. In the physical fitness competition, students competed against each other in pushups, curlups, the 2000 yard relay and the 2- mile relay.

In the academic competition, 10 students from each school were given a 100 question test on basic military knowledge. In addition, each school underwent a uniform and personnel inspection.

In the end, Captain Steve DeMatteo, Marine Officer Instructor at USF, said he was proud of the Naval ROTC squad.

“They did a great job putting the NJROTC event together for the 21 high schools,” DeMatteo said. “This is a great recruitment tool for the Naval ROTC program at USF. I expect to see many of these students in the future,” he said.