In Devils Lake, JROTC enjoys strong support from the community and enthusiastic participation from young adults who want to challenge themselves and learn a few things about military life.
The Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC), which came to be in 1916 as the United States prepared to enter World War I, has prepared youths for both military service and life beyond high school for over a century.
In Devils Lake, the program enjoys strong support from the community and enthusiastic participation from young adults who want to challenge themselves and learn a few things about military life.
Jamie Shanks, a senior at Devils Lake High School and four-year JROTC member, says that she was inspired to look into the program after her middle school class was visited by active duty soldiers.
“I was inspired when all of those people came into my (class) in middle school, and they were all wearing these ribbons and medals and all of that, and it looked so cool to me,” Shanks said. “They told us about all of the different things we could do, and it just sounded like a lot of fun.”
She also said that her family history drew her to the program.
“My grandpa was in World War II and I really wanted to understand the discipline that he went through, all the military stuff,” Shanks said.
Shanks said that she estimates that about half of her JROTC comrades plan to join the military after high school. She is already drilling with the National Guard and says that her JROTC experience has given her a big boost.
“We learn a lot about discipline and organization, being responsible for yourself,” Shanks said. “If you’re a commander, you learn to not only be responsible for yourself, but your cadets (also). So you learn a lot of leadership skills.
“It teaches you so much about how to measure yourself as a person,” she added.
Cadets in the JROTC have recently gained a further incentive to perform at a high standard - not that they needed one - in the form of a scholarship offered by Devils Lake Animal Clinic. The $100 award goes to the Cadet of the Quarter, someone who has been determined to have gone above and beyond in his or her performance.
Shanks said that those who nominate cadets for the quarterly award look for “a leader, a self-starter, someone who’s going to help the program.”
PFC Samuel Shomento was recognized as the first Cadet of the Quarter under the program for his “dedication to country, unit and pursuit of personal excellence.”
Though JROTC can be serious business, as it helps prepare students for the stringent disciplinary requirements of military life, Shanks reports that there is plenty of fun to be had as a member of the program.
With Camp Grafton so close, local cadets are able to experience high-level training around real-life soldiers and have a blast at the same time.
“We actually went into the (simulators) with all the machine guns and shot all the (virtual) chickens,” Shanks said. “It was so fun!”
She also mentioned the daunting challenge that the 35-foot rappelling wall offers.
“At Camp Grafton we do rappelling, and if you’re afraid of heights, you’re not going to have a fun time,” Shanks said.
The Lake Region has a history of strong support for the military, and the JROTC program enjoys the same support. With cadet commanders like Shanks and high-achieving cadets like Shomento keeping the program going strong, the JROTC represents a valuable pipeline to help fill the ranks of the active duty military with talented young soldiers.
Shanks said that she encourages anyone who’s curious to look into what the JROTC has to offer.
“It’s a great program, and you should definitely join.”