Jackson High School’s Navy Junior ROTC program is wrapping up a busy summer of trips and activities this week with a camping trip to Stone Mountain.

The summer began for cadets with a small group taking a flight to Hawaii to visit Pearl Harbor in late May. The group of half a dozen students learned about the USS Arizona and the Japanese attack on the installation Dec. 7, 1941 that led to U.S. involvement in World War II.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” said Chief Petty Officer Vincent Williams, who accompanied the cadets, adding Pearl Harbor is a “sacred place.”

Also during the summer, a group of around 10 cadets was able to travel to Washington, D.C., to visit Smithsonian museums, Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Naval Academy in nearby Annapolis, Md.

Five cadets, including leaders among the ROTC unit, later attended a weeklong two-state leadership academy in Gainesville, Ga., for ROTC members from Georgia and Florida.

Jackson High NJROTC Commander Matthew Jordan said the academy is a highly selective program, and takes a limited number of participants from throughout the two states.

Among those from Jackson High School attending the academy was rising senior Jakob Guild, the cadet executive officer of the program. He said he brought back several lessons that will be valuable in the coming school year.

“I enjoyed the military aspect of it, and different skills and traits you learn throughout the week,” Guild said.

Nearly 20 cadets also helped out this summer with Sheriff Gary Long’s Special Forces Camp, a summer camp for children with disabilities in Butts County. The project closely ties in to the ROTC program’s relationship with local Special Olympics, and Jordan said the ROTC will be helping out this coming school year with two major Special Olympics competitions.

For the unit’s cadet commanding officer, senior Isabella Hemmings, the Special Forces Camp was the highlight of the summer.

“I got to bond with all the kids,” she said.

Last week at Jackson High School, about two dozen ROTC cadets assisted with a freshman leadership camp aimed at incoming students.

Jordan said the week included trips to Kennesaw State University and to Six Flags.

“It’s a student-led week. The students trained them on self-discipline, leadership and how to be successful in high school,” Jordan said, adding the camp helps establish mentor relationships between older students and younger ones.

And while the Jackson High School NJROTC program has grown considerably in the last four years, Jordan said there is still room to improve upon the unit’s Unit Achievement Award and recognition last year as the Most Improved Unit. This year, he said, the unit will reach for the top recognition, the Distinguished Unit award, which requires even more exemplary performance in competitions, scholarship awards, volunteer service and other achievements.

The unit, Jordan said, will be on track through the next school year to complete 6,000 hours of service.

“But the success of the kids is even more important than any unit awards, so we always stay focused on that and making sure the kids are prepared for life after high school,” Jordan said.

Heading into the new school year, Hemmings, the unit’s cadet commanding officer, said the unit is focused on creating the culture of a family atmosphere around the program.

“Our main focus is family,” she said as a group of 25 cadets readied to depart for the Stone Mountain camping trip. “So my main focus is making sure the unit comes together as a family.”

Managing Editor

Michael Davis has been the editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus since 2010. He previously worked as an editor and reporter for the Henry Daily Herald and Clayton News-Daily.