Lee’s Summit West’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is not only a class, but a sport. According to the Washington Post, there can be up to 100-110 students in the JROTC programs at almost every high school in the United States. That’s 100-110 students competing for a place on the victory podium.
Senior Carleigh Belz has been in the program all four years of her time here at West, and she says that it has played a big role in the way she lives her life. Bellz is captain of the Raider team, one of two teams that the program has. Bellz said that, “Ultimate fitness and military type challenges whereas the Drill team is formation marching,”
Bellz said the team does a good amount of practice, as the Raiders practice 3 times a week for 2 hours each. “We do a lot of long runs and practice carrying litters and heavy ammo cans. This is because at meets we have to run a 10k with a weighted rucksack. and there are a lot of events where you have to sprint with ammo cans down by your waste,”
The program has not received an overwhelming amount of recognition according to its members, but Bellz said she believes that doesn’t change anything. “I personally don’t have a problem with the amount of recognition we get, because I think if you enjoy something it shouldn’t matter what people think about it. But I know for some people in ROTC they feel like people don’t like them just because they are in ROTC and wish people had more positive opinions about it.”
Bellz also said that like any sports team, it’s important to strike a bond with your teammates. Every week the team has an optional team meal to bond. In addition to the practice makes perfect montra that coaches say.
Junior Jake Callahan has to balance football and the ROTC program, says he has committed himself to both teams and the members within each. “Team chemistry is good as far as I know, but I am not as close to my teammates as I’d like to be because I am busy with football and made the sacrifice of missing Raider practices. I know the team is strong and well connected though because at practices everyone is encouraging each other and motivating their teammates to do better.”
He also said that in addition to the meets being extremely difficult in terms of physical challenges, it’s also a difficult challenge mentally. vents that would fall into the mental side of things are knot tying or the rope bridge test.
However, Callahan said that he does believe that the ROTC deserves more recognition because of how hard it actually is. “Raiders is like no other sport at West. Raiders is no joke, a Raiders practice is harder than any other sport related practice at west. I’m in Football and Wrestling, but Raiders will beat those by a long shot. At most Raider meets, teams have to be there by 6 and since competitions aren’t close we leave two or three in the morning. We run more than ten miles in total that day and all our muscles are sore from lifting and dropping logs, carrying ammo cans and carrying teammates also. I would compare a Raider meet to playing one game of football both ways and wrestling a tournament all in the same day,” Callahan said.
All in all these are competitions, and Callahan said the team is always playing to win. “We are competing to be the best in Lee’s Summit so we can have bragging rights. Like all other West sports, we gotta prove we are the best in Lee’s Summit,”
Senior Joey Caton has also always been apart of the ROTC culture, even going as far as starting in Kid Army when he was in elementary school. He said that his passion for the military has continued into high school.
“We have an amazing program with a lot of opportunities for everyone. I feel like we get a bad wrap sometimes for being the weird kids that pretend to be in the military. But whenever I walk into the classroom I don’t see a bunch of cadets, I see my friends and kids that are really looking for a home and a fun program to be apart of,” Caton said.
The ROTC community at West said they are all proud of their culture here, and that’s something that won’t ever die.