Saluting The Cadets Of Junior ROTC

After seeing a film, or reading an inspiring account of military heroism or accomplishment, it has become common to ask, “Where do we get such men?” Nowadays, however, with women fully integrated into most military units, including combat support (and more and more frequently, the line between “combat support” and “combat” gets very fuzzy, as evidenced by the increasing number of “Wounded Women Warriors”), the proper question is: “Where do we get such Americans?” The answer, of course, is from the streets and campuses of America. And yesterday I saw, firsthand, a prime example of this source.

I was honored by Punahou Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), as they invited me to be the keynote speaker for their annual awards parade on campus. This high schoollevel ROTC is the junior version of the university ROTC, the main alternative source of new military officers (the traditional source being the respective service academies such as West Point for the Army, Annapolis for the Navy and so on).

Punahou JROTC has a long, distinguished history, and dating from 1918, it is the oldest unit in Hawaii. It is chartered to “provide training in quality citizenship, character and leadership development, and to foster partnerships with community and other educational institutions.” The program teaches the fundamentals of planning and executing events and other activities, such as this weekly parade itself.

The cadets are taught and encouraged to live by the U.S. Army values of “Leadership, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.” Punahou JROTC is fortunate to have for its military adviser Lt. Col. Robert Takao, who came to Punahou directly from the University of Hawaii ROTC, which through its fouryear program prepares collegelevel cadets for commissioning directly into their respective services upon graduation. Lt. Col. Takao brought with him a depth of experience with Hawaii’s unique cultural diversity, and long historical partnership with Hawaii’s active military.

The format of yesterday’s annual awards parade was similar to any military ceremonial parade, beginning with a musical prelude (in this case, by Marine Corps Band of the Pacific, which would be rare for any high school event except here on Oahu); parading of the colors (the American flag and Punahou JROTC Battalion flag); the national anthem; an invocation by the chaplain (probably rare to nonexistent in most of America’s high schools today); a formal Change of Command ceremony, where the a junior class cadet officially assumes command of the battalion from the graduating senior commander; and finally a marching “pass in review” to the music of the band.

During the ceremony, 23 awards were presented to more than 40 cadets for leadership, citizenship, all around outstanding performance in military duties, spreading the values of Americanism on campus, academic achievement, selfless service and dedication, excellence on drill team, marksmanship and excellence in physical fitness. Several awards were presented by representatives of organizations with patriotic or military affiliations, which sponsored the specific award, thereby including more members of the community in the event.

Finally, Punahou JROTC Battalion is also a magnet unit, whereby the weekly military drills and classes are open to smaller private schools as well as homeschoolers. Just learning to communicate and coordinate all the weekly activities involving so many disparate parts is excellent military training in and of itself. The JROTC Battalion also is a natural extension of Punahou-sponsored Boy Scouts of America, Troop 1.

Perfect synergy in leadership, citizenship and patriotism. Hawaii is definitely a better place because of it.