Marching in unison to verbal signals given by junior and senior leaders, the 153 students in the Georgetown High School Navy Junior Reserve Training Officer Corps performed for family, friends and officials during an annual inspection on March 15.

Maj. Shawn Studley, senior naval science instructor with the NJROTC at Georgetown High, welcomed the large group of attendees in the school's gymnasium, saying he appreciates the support Georgetown shows for the program.

"This small community is filled with many citizens who have worn this exact same uniform over the last 30 years," Studley said. "The community loves its cadets because many of them were cadets, and they know first-hand the impact this organization has had on their own lives and what it will do for their loved one."

Cmdr. Griffith Jones, NJROTC's Area Six manager and inspector, also spoke during the event. He agreed that the community is an important part of the NJROTC organization.

"This is a very strong unit, it is very well run and led," Jones said. "This is a terrific community that loves NJROTC and strongly supports the program."

He said the day was about the cadets and compared the remainder of the school year to a track-and-field race.

"You’ve done some great things, but you can't coast," Jones said. "Make sure you finish the year strong. Run through the tape."

He also stressed the importance of academics for the cadets' futures.

"If you are weak in an area, not doing as well as you want to, there is still time to improve," Jones said. "If you are doing great in all your courses, don’t let up. You don’t want to have a last-minute let down. So keep working hard."

Studley shared with the crowd several of the reasons that the NJROTC program exists: to promote patriotism, appreciate the sacrifice of those who have served their country, develop a respect for authority, develop leadership potential and commit to high school completion and higher education.

"Our cadets are a committed team, not only to the team, but to the community, as well," he said. "They have served over 1,500 hours of community service."

He said the cadets have a very strong respect for authority and they understand what it means to be in charge.

"They are a 'Yes sir, yes ma'am' kind of group and a lot of that is because of everything you’ve instilled in them at home," Studley said. "We have just built upon what you’ve instilled in your son or daughter or your loved one."

Their leadership potential is exemplified by many serving in leadership roles in the unit, as well as in other school activities, he said.

"We have a number of cadets who are captains of their respective athletic teams, serving as student council officers, as well as officers in many different other clubs here on campus," Studley said. "That’s a tribute to their commitment to excellence."

He said one of the program's main goals is to promote education.

"I will promise you this: every cadet that stays with us for four years will graduate high school. That is the norm," he said. "We will also do everything in our power to make sure they are prepared for life after high school."

After the ceremony, cadets met with their parents and other loved ones to reflect on the event. Cliff and Kelly Mayer said they were glad to see their son, Landon, a freshman, in uniform and carrying a flag.

"We are really proud. It is awesome to see these kids, at such a young age, with such patriotism," Kelly Mayer said. "We hope it will continue throughout the years they are in school."

Cliff Mayer agreed, saying that he especially liked seeing his son carrying the flag during the ceremony.

"It was quite an honor to see that," he said. "We thought it was kind of special."

Felicia Johnson congratulated her son, Daprince Evans, also a freshman.

"It was my first time being here, so it was real nice to see all of them dressed up in their uniforms," she said.

Johnson added that she hopes this program will help motivate Daprince to find his path for the future.

"If he wants to go into the service, this is really a good program," she said. "Even if he doesn’t, he will have that training and that discipline."

Eric Campbell, father of freshman cadet Gabriel Campell, agreed.

"My grandfather was in the Navy, and I always wanted to be in the Navy," he said. "I'm so proud he has taken that path."

Elaine Pope, grandmother of freshman cadet Hunter Powers, said she hopes she will continue in the NJROTC program until she is a senior.

"It will give her an outlook on life, being with other students, to do different things, instead of just being still and not getting involved with people and other things," she said.

Hunter said she enjoys being part of the program.

"We are a close-knit group because they put us in spots where they know we are going to get along," she said. "So we are close with each other, and we get along like family."

Clayton Stairs/South Strand News