Navy JROTC Builds Character, Discipline

Lauren Galdeano, Reporter

Radford is home to one of three high schools in the state with a Navy Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit.

So far, during this school year, the program is already seeing changes.

“We have brand new staff, which [involve students] leading the unit,” cadet Fallon Villarreal (10) said. “We have new events being planned and lots of new ideas.”

Leading the program is veteran Navy JROTC instructor Lt. Col. Paul Fields and first-year to Radford instructor Chief Paul Cavallaro, who replaced Ernesto Panagsagan.

Villarreal said that she is excited for the year ahead with the new instructor.

“He is very eager to be involved with the staff and the cadets. He wants us to learn qualities that will carry us through life, like personal responsibilities and discipline,” Villarreal said. “I like him a lot and I’m excited to see what he has in store for us.”

Navy JROTC involves a collective effort among instructors as well as students.

“Most people don’t realize how much work is required to run a JROTC unit,” Joshua Haney (11) said. In addition to the paperwork involved, he said other challenges include planning and preparing cadets and equipment for events.

What usually takes place in the spring has cadets already preparing for the Annual Military Inspection, where the Navy JROTC Manager will conduct an inspection of the school’s unit. Students will prepare by participating in the Staff Rehearsal on Sept. 23 and, All-Hands Rehearsal, and the actual inspection on Sept. 26.

“These rehearsals and the actual inspection are especially critical this year as we have so many new cadets and the fact that the inspection is so early in the school year,” Lt. Col. Paul Fields wrote in an email. “It is usually conducted in late January or early February.”

Justin Piano (9) said that he was really nervous about the inspection. “I scored a 9.5 and only lost half a point because my hair was too long.”

While Navy JROTC may not be for everyone, those who are enrolled in the program have observed positive character traits.

“It improves a cadet’s self discipline, work ethic, time management, and overall character,” Sarah Brekhus (11) said. “Just one year has the ability to change a person for the better.”

Vanessa Garza (11) said that being in the program was an eye-opening experience for her. “I’ve learned more about myself as a leader,” she said. “It helps bring out leadership qualities in the cadets, as well as help them develop traits such as honor, courage, and commitment.”

For Brekhus, Navy JROTC took on a personal note for her.

“It was the beginning of my freshman year that I knew being in NJROTC was like being in a family,” she said. “Your peers and instructors are always there when you need a question answered, advice given, or someone to lean on. You’re never afraid of what they might say either because you know it will help you out along the run.”

In addition to the pseudo-family unit, Garza also noted the diversity among the cadets.

“You meet people of all sorts of backgrounds and from different places,” Garza said.

Brekhus said that she has applied skills that she’s learned from the program to her own life.

“I’ve become a more well rounded person, learning time management, self discipline, teamwork, and good character.”

Austin Acang (10) said that he joined the program because of what he sees at home.  “I want a shot with the military. Since my dad is in it, it seems like a a good career.”

For Brandon Haugland (11), Navy JROTC is preparation for post high school. “After high school, I would like to go to the Citadel and I believe NJROTC will help me excel through the ranks at the Citadel.”

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