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JROTC cadets overcome nerves - Bend Bullentin

March 25, 2012
Crook County High School

JROTC cadets overcome nerves

Army National Guard general (and police chief) inspects Crook students

By Scott Hammers / The Bulletin

PRINEVILLE — In a largely silent gym at Crook County High School, nearly 90 Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets stand rigidly, brushing bits of lint from their khaki uniforms. A cadet in the front row fusses with his belt buckle.

The general is coming.

Wednesday was inspection day for students in the school's Navy JROTC program, an event that serves as a final exam of sorts for the unit, according to commanding officer Melissa Lopez.

To do the honors, the school brought in Oregon Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Eric Bush, better known around town as Prineville Police Chief Eric Bush.

With Bush minutes away, Master Chief Donnie Jackman offered his cadets encouragement, and a warning about the risks of standing at attention for too long.

“If you start feeling hot and sweaty, please go down on a knee,” Jackman said. “It's nothing to be ashamed of.”

Lopez, a senior at the high school with plans to go to Oregon State University next fall on a JROTC scholarship, said nerves are a big part of inspection day. Cadets don't know what the inspector will ask them, Lopez said, and if they lock their knees while standing at attention, they can pass out due to restricted blood flow.

“I've never seen it, but it's a real thing,” she said.

Navy Cmdr. Russ Robison, who oversees the unit along with Jackman, said though the cadets probably get more nervous than they need to, forcing them to perform under pressure is an important part of the inspection.

“The idea here is to put somebody impressive that they don't know right in front of them,” Robison said.

Bush spent nearly an hour walking up and down the lines of cadets, scoring them on the appearance of their uniforms and quizzing them on their plans for the future.

Though Bush was smiling through much of the inspection, he said he could tell the cadets were anxious.

“I can understand why they'd be nervous,” Bush said. “I was 18 once — that's when I joined the military — and I'd be nervous as well.”

Bush said despite their anxiety, the cadets he met were personable and professional. The Crook County JROTC unit is a “top-notch program,” he said, and should be a source of pride for the community.

Chief Petty Officer Nathaniel Stevenson, a junior at the high school, said he thought the inspection went well. When a cadet slips up during an inspection, the cadets nearby notice, Stevenson said, and the desire to avoid letting down the unit is the source of much of the nervousness. “When we mess up on anything, the crowd doesn't see it, but the inspector sees it,” he said.

Any mistakes the unit may have made have been minor. Bush said the unit presented itself every bit as well as a unit of enlisted men and women, and that the skills the cadets have learned in JROTC will serve them well long after high school.

“There are a lot of kids that are set on a glide path for success in life that they wouldn't be on if it wasn't for this program,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

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