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Bulldog Olympics helps turn Waukegan High’s 703 JROTC members into one unified unit

Members Company B — Bravo Company — await directiduring JROTC Olykmpics Waukegan High School. The 700-plus JROTC members are divided

Members of Company B — Bravo Company — await direction during the JROTC Olykmpics at Waukegan High School. The 700-plus JROTC members are divided into small groups based on class schedule and which campus members attend. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA PHOTO

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Waukegan JROTC

(Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps)

Largest stand-alone ROTC program in the country with 703 cadets, and one of the oldest (established in 1916). (Note: There is a program in New York that’s bigger, but it is a combination of three different high schools.)

Students who join the JROTC are not obligated to join the military

Cadets wear uniforms to school on Thursdays. Uniforms are provided free of charge provided they are returned in acceptable condition.


Team-Building Event

Sponge relay; cadets used sponges to transfer water from one bucket to another, and then into a series of cups

Stretcher obstacle course; a cadet on the stretcher directs blindfolded stretcher bearers through an obstacle course

Scavenger hunt; a scavenger hunt through the woods for stuffed animals and pictures

Team slingshot target practice; with two cadets holding a large rubber band, cadets try to shoot balls through holes in a piece of plywood

Sit-ups and push-ups

Dress-up obstacle course; cadets put on a camouflage uniform and run and crawl through as short obstacle course

“Don’t Lose Your Marbles”; cadets holding split PVC pipe try to roll marbles from one length of pipe to another, ultimately depositing them in a cup

Cadet Creed test; cadets are tested on their knowledge of the Cadet Creed.

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Updated: December 4, 2013 2:40AM

Every high school basketball/football fan in Waukegan knows of the local high school’s JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program.

At every home football and basketball game, the 6-10 JROTC members who compose the Color Guard present the colors for the playing of the national anthem.

What the Waukegan fans DON’T SEE are the other 700 members of the school’s JROTC. In fact, there are only a few times during the year that all 700 members are in the same place at the same time.

And one of them will be Saturday morning when every member of the group dons full uniform and marches together in the school’s Homecoming parade in what surely has to be an impressive sight.

To try to put the number 700 in perspective, consider this: Warren High School has the largest high school marching band in the entire state.

And it’s 300 members proud.

Here, we’re talking 703, marching in unison and representing their school and community in the proud way that JROTC members can.

Those 703 also were together last weekend, filling up an athletic field next to Waukegan High School on Brookside for the annual JROTC Bulldog Olympics, which basically was a spirited, team-bonding competition that had the same kind of high energy and excitement you get from football teams when they charge onto the field for their Homecoming game.

Turns out that the small groups within the JROTC — A Company, B Company, C Company, etc. — aren’t all that different from athletic teams, except that there’s no ball or stick or racket.

The concepts are the same: Teamwork, a sense of belonging, striving to achieve team goals as well as individual goals, disciple, pride, self-esteem — it’s all there.

Each small unit (company) is put together based on which of the two campuses a student attends, and how the class schedule falls, so there are freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in each company.

On staff at Waukegan High are several instructors who teach JROTC, and each company also has what amounts to student leaders.

It’s well organized — no surprise there. What IS surprising is the energy and enthusiasm each cadet for his/her company teammates.

Waukegan’s JROTC is headed by Major Carter Bell, who is retired from the Army, and here’s what he had to say on a variety of JROTC subjects:

■ “The mission of JROTC is to motivate young people to be better citizens, so it’s all about leadership development, community service, teamwork, and academics.”

■ “For our curriculum, we teach first aid, health and fitness, financial education. It’s not about going into the military. It’s about our responsibilities as citizens.”

■ “If the cadet does decide to enlist in the military, then they go in as an E-2, meaning they enter with a higher rank. If they go into college, then they can skip the first two years of college ROTC, which leads to a commission in the army. This also helps with ROTC scholarships. We also currently have two cadets at military academies.”

■ “It’s a regular elective course, so they come to class one period every day (in lieu of gym class). If they’re in a leadership role, they put in as many extra hours as they think they need to put in to get the job done.”

■ “A regiment has three battalions, and each battallion has three companies. First Battallion has Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie Companies, and it’s all sequential from Alpha to India. There are about 70 cadets per company. At the battalion and regiment level, we have staff officers that help us run the organization.”

The Major said that the Bulldog Olympics was the first time all 703 cadets were in the same place at the same time this year.

“This is really a team-building event,” Bell said. “By the end of the day, each company feels like they’re a family. At the end of the events, we have a snack break, and then we practice marching in preparation for the Homecoming parade on (Saturday). This gives us an opportunity to see them all march together and work out some kinks.”

As for the Color Guard, which all of Waukegan is familiar with, the Major explained that it is a volunteer activity within the JROTC.

“They volunteer, just like all of our community service,” he said. “We don’t require them to do community service, but it’s something we definitely encourage as part of our mission.

“They are recognized and get a ribbon when they do 20 hours. One of the things I’ve found is that we have a tremendous amount of people volunteer. At the Waukegan Air Show, for example, we had 73 cadets out on the tarmac and put in over 600 hours of service that day.”

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