Hands were in the standby position as members of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps competed in the eighth annual JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl in Washington, D.C., June 21-24.
“This competition challenges our cadets personally, professionally and intellectually,” said Major Michael Allen, deputy chief of operations for Headquarters, Air Force Junior ROTC. “Only the top 4% of Air Force teams make it this far and no matter what happens here, no one can take that away from them.”
The academic bowl is the culmination of a multi-level academic competition in which high school JROTC units represent their service branch and participate throughout the school year. June 23 was the final round, and only the top seed for each branch was left standing — the returning champions, Scripps Ranch High School, and their challengers, Princess Anna High School in Virginia Beach, Va., representing Navy JROTC, White Station High School in Memphis, Tenn., representing Army JROTC, and John Randolph Tucker High School in Henrico, Va., representing Marine JROTC.
At the end of the competition, the scores were tallied and the AFJROTC took second place, handing their title of champions to the Navy JROTC team after a three-year reign.
“The Navy team that beat us are really good,” said Cadet Kevin Griggs, Air Force JROTC Scripps Ranch High School. “In a local competition we were beaten by a local Navy team which had also lost to this team.”
One of the difficulties the Scripps Ranch High School cadets had to overcome was more than half of the team had changed out before the competition. Although tough, Cadet Raymond Sun was positive about the upcoming challenge.
“It was exciting to see how we would do because of how much of the team is new,” said Sun. “I was able to talk about my experience from past events and help the team overcome their fears.”
Sun had used his leadership abilities to help guide the team to the finals, but in the end, a round called “Categories” was the arrow in Achilles’ heel. “The event was very math intensive and the ‘Categories’ section caught us unaware,” said Cadet Samuel Chen.
Although not taking first at the event, Scripps Ranch High School was able to beat 439 other Air Force JROTC teams competing against one another in a mixture of JROTC curriculum, English, math and science for the last 10 months.
“We did very well this year and we won it for the last three years as well as winning the Air Force one for the last five or six years.” said Lt. Col. Michael Sheldon, JROTC instructor at Scripps Ranch High School. “We know what we need to concentrate on to win next year we have a lot of return students, so I feel confident we can take it again next year.”
As the team gathered around and held their trophy, smiles showed that their spirits had not been diminished, but excited that their hard work and dedication paid off.
Sheldon and his cadets will work together to polish aspects of their preparation and ready themselves next year for a win in the 2020 Joint Service Academic Bowl.
The writer is staff sergeant with 11th Wing Public Affairs.