Four cadets from Great Mills High School graduated from the intense seven-day Navy Junior ROTC Leadership Academy at Camp Pendleton State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach.

This year’s graduates were Brody Brown, Ky’Lia Chase, Madison Davis and Nazir Terrell. The leadership academy serves as an “all star camp” for about 160 of the best NJROTC rising seniors and juniors from 57 high schools in Maryland, Washington and Virginia. GMHS Capt. David Randle was there as a classroom instructor and competition judge.

Cadets show up in unit T-shirts, working khaki or blue Coast Guard trousers, and athletic shoes, carrying their sword and rifle, according to a release from the school program. They surrender their cellphones, and receive new shirts that place them into four platoons that compete against each other all week. Monday starts with a 5:20 a.m. fitness test, and then cadets are busy 16 to 17 hours a day with barracks and uniform inspections, fitness competitions, academic classes, rifle and sword drill, urban orienteering, marching and more marching. Cadets thrive in team-building and trust-building exercises, and succeed by working together.

Cadets learn that the leadership academy is not about them; it’s about taking the lessons they learned and putting them into practice at their home schools, making their units better. For many, this was the toughest week of their life so far. Graduation at Landstown High school in Virginia Beach couldn’t come soon enough, and these cadets will wear their grey aiguillettes with pride.