SOUTH HS JROTC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BOUND
April 15, 2021 -- The Junior Army ROTC Program at South High School is going someplace it has never been before: the National JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl (JLAB) Championship in Washington, D.C., this summer.
“I was utterly shocked,” said Master Sergeant Benjamin Zumock, Junior Army Instructor at South High School. “The students worked hard, and we’ve made improvements every year, but I still can’t believe we made it to nationals.”
“South’s team was the only program of the 25 Army Junior ROTC programs in Ohio to advance to the finals,” said Ret. Lt. Army Colonel and Senior Army Instructor Paul Allmon. “There are 1,700 Army JROTC programs nationwide, and we were one of 26 to make it to the finals.”
To get ready for the competition, which is tentatively scheduled for June, the cadets and their instructors are already practicing. Not the traditional calisthenics and flag drills that are synonymous with ROTC -- the National JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl are different.
On the second floor of South High School, Room 201 stands apart due to the camouflage paint pattern around the door. On this Tuesday, the traditional school day has ended but not for the championship-bound cadets, who are creating quite a commotion. Once the South High School Library, Room 201 is now JROTC headquarters.
The cadets are divided into three groups. Three of the students are blindfolded, listening to their team leader navigate them through a minefield of small orange cones and cardboard markers. The challenge is to make it through the minefield unscathed by listening to the one voice, your team leader, and not the others.
“This practice exercise teaches the students about critical thinking, focus, leadership, and communication,” said Allmon.
The national competition also includes timed multiple-choice questions from the Army JROTC classroom textbooks. To help the students, Instructor Zumock links the questions to a computer projector in another part of the room so that the cadets can practice together.
“I’m so proud of how these students have worked individually and as a team,” said Master Sgt. Zumock.
Abby Hutton and Miranda Parsley are both 10th-graders in the Army JROTC program at South High School and heading to nationals.
“I’ve never been to Washington D.C.,” said Abby Hutton.
“Me either,” said Miranda Parsley. “We are so excited. We will meet new people like us.”
Both young women admit the Army JROTC program has provided them with leadership and critical thinking skills that will stay with them long after their high school graduation.
“Both instructors are kind, funny, and treat us like we belong,” said Parsley. “We are treated fairly and as equals regardless of class rank. I realize that’s a vital life skill.”
Junior Joel Moren is also making the trip this summer.
“I’m just happy I’m going with friends,” said Moren. “Army JROTC has helped me develop my leadership skills. I’m more confident in myself because of this program.”
The Army will pay for the cadets from South High to travel to the national competition.
In the meantime, the team will continue to practice in person and remotely, even after school is out for summer. The South Army JROTC team is determined to do what it takes to make Ohio proud in our nation’s capital this summer.