More than 300 Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets from around the world are exhibiting their academic and leadership talents by competing at George Mason University for the title of best academic team and best leadership in the nation.
Cadets have come to the national capital region as part of the annual Junior Leadership and Academic Bowl, known as JLAB.
"This is a great opportunity for us to show off our team’s skills and be challenged," Cadet Logan McLaughlin, of Cocoa Beach High School in Melbourne, Fla., said. "Our team came here to win; we are confident in that."
Cadets participating in the weekend’s events in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County represent their high schools teams from around the nation, Germany, Puerto Rico and Guam.
The cadets will compete against one another to test their knowledge in math, English, science, technology, leadership and current events.
This competition is a national level event that capstones almost a year of competition and preparation.
JLAB is the Army’s continuing development program developed around leadership and academics, called the "JROTC Super Bowl" by senior leaders.
This year’s competition began nationwide in November 2009. The Level 1 event had more than 900 teams register and take part in the "challenge phase," an online segment.
After that phase, only half the teams moved on to Level 2, held in January 2010. In phase two, the questions incorporated were focused on the standardized testing based from the SAT and ACT programs of study.
As the students compete, a key objective of the event is to prepare the student- cadets for future opportunities in gaining acceptance into a college program.
Upon the completion of the final phase, the JLAB event, a cadet JROTC team will be named the "best of the best" in the academic bowl.
All cadets will have gained a considerable amount of knowledge as they prepare themselves to participate in college entry exams.
Teams participated in the preliminary rounds, better known to the cadets as the "knockout rounds," and, just like in any tournament, each team will have to earn the top score per round to move in the next round.
Andrew P. Hill High School from San Jose, Calif., a team in the preliminary round moved ahead of Campbell County High School of Jacksonboro, Tenn., beating their opponent 255 to 155 points.
Cadet teams competing in the Leadership Symposium portion of JLAB were placed into nine task force teams and assigned projects to develop materials for Junior ROTC’s Facebook and Twitter sites.
"We want to give them the experience of having to organize themselves, plan the ways they will address their assigned topic and monument, task organize their efforts and complete the work," Janet Sankar of U.S. Army Cadet Command’s JROTC Directorate, said. "In other words, to show the leadership qualities needed to organize themselves and complete their tasks."
The cadets’ products will contribute to broadening and enhancing a social networking initiative specifically for them and their peers, Sankar said.
The items cadets produced included video vignettes, which the cadets planned, filmed and edited, photographs with captions the Cadets shot and wrote, relevant quotes and appropriate Web links relating to the leadership topic their team was assigned.
Each team was assigned one of the seven aspects of leadership from the JROTC curriculum or the leadership traits of Gen. George C. Marshall or Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Each team was also assigned one of the major monuments in Washington, D.C.
Lt. Col. Charles Cox, USA, Ret., the senior Army instructor at Florida’s Cocoa Beach Junior and Senior High School, said the cadets knew which topic and which monument they were assigned before they arrived for JLAB, and had done "more than a fair amount" of research before they arrived.
Cox’s Cadets were part of Team Courage, along with cadets from Tennessee’s Campbell County High School; M.B. Lamar High School from Texas; McLaurin High School in Mississippi; Nokomis Regional High School in Maine; and Hawaii’s Punahou School. Their assigned monument was the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.
The teams spent most of one day visiting the National Mall and their assigned monuments, taking pictures, gathering quotes and filming the monuments and some of the visitors as part of their projects.
Cadet Logan McLaughlin served as executive officer for Team Courage. He said the assignment of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial was a fortunate one.
"We are fortunate enough to have both our SAI and AI (enlisted Army instructor) be Vietnam vets, so we had a lot of background experience," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said Team Courage divided its efforts into a quotes and historical information team; a discussion questions and topics team; a team for taking photographs; and a team for developing materials to be added to that site.
He said the quotes team, for example, gathered its materials from their memorial’s engravings, courage-related quotes from other memorials, readings and research they conducted and interviews with bystanders — such as the two World War II veterans they interviewed about their experiences, and the different generational perspectives they noted between their era and the Vietnam era.
Cadet James St. Michel, from Maine’s Nokomis Central High School, also believes the combination of their team’s leadership trait, personal courage and their assigned memorial is particularly relevant in terms of relating his JROTC curriculum to the rest of his education.
"I’ve just gone through American history, including that period, and the material we researched for this project includes quotes from people ranging from JFK through President [Richard] Nixon, and it broadens our understanding of the situations that existed during the era," he said.
The results of the Army Junior ROTC Junior Leadership and Academic Bowl were announced at a dinner on the last night.
Marmion Academy of Aurora, Ill., claimed victory in the Academic Bowl.
Soddy Daisy High School of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., took first in the Leadership Symposium.
Of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadet teams in the Academic Bowl, Lowell High School from San Francisco took second place. Stafford High of Stafford, Texas, finishing third and Blythewood High in Blythewood, S.C., came in fourth.
In the leadership competition, Century High School of Sykesville, Md., finished in second place; Mustang High, of Mustang, Okla., came in third and the cadet team from Punahou High School, Honolulu, finished fourth.
The event is co-sponsored by the U.S. Army Cadet Command, the parent organization of the Army ROTC and Junior ROTC programs, and the College Options Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the academic development of high school students.
(Editor’s note: The article was based on stories by Lt. Col. Mike Indovina and Mike Johnson, U.S. Army Cadet Command.)