Slightly smaller New London JROTC unit this year, but demands still high

New London — While the 113 cadets represent a slightly smaller unit than last year, the level of demand in the school and in the community has grown, the unit's company commander said Wednesday.

Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Anabell Nieves said since April 1, the cadets in the local Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program have performed more than 1,266 hours of community service.

"Overall, this unit is thriving. We have been extremely busy and productive so far this year and we are just getting started," Nieves said during the unit's annual inspection and pass in review ceremony.

This year, retired Navy Cmdr. Jimmie Miller, one of 11 NJROTC area managers across the country, was the guest inspector, visiting to ensure the unit met the program guidelines.

Miller told the cadets to relax, and that he wasn't there to fail them but to evaluate them.

"You're already great. Just show me how great you are and we'll have fun today. Oorah," Miller said.

"Oorah," the cadets replied.

The seniors, decked out in their dress blues, and juniors and underclassmen, dressed in khaki uniforms, marched around the shiny hardwood floors in the gym with the sound of medals clanking as family, community members and alumni of the program looked on.

The unit's armed and unarmed drill teams and color guard showcased their skills at the ceremony before the full unit marched around the gym.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Ted Ward, who runs the NJROTC program with retired Coast Guard Senior Chief Brian Smith, said that it's always tough with the march around to get everyone in step. He said the uniform inspection went very well and the drill teams did a very good job.

Four cadets received promotions within the NJROTC rank structure, and many of the freshmen received ribbons for exemplary personal appearance.

Cadet Seaman Apprentice Madison Ramsey received the Sailor of the Quarter award from the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Uniformed Services.

Ramsey, 14, a freshman from Norwich, was honored for completing a four-day basic leadership training in West Point, becoming the first among the first-year cadets to make cadet seaman apprentice and becoming platoon commander for the first-year drill team, among other achievements.

Ramsey said she was surprised to receive the award because she expected another cadet to get it. After undergoing the basic leadership training, Ramsey said she got hooked and "couldn't stop." She plans to apply to one of the military service academies, she said.

The NJROTC program is not intended to recruit young men and women into the armed forces, but rather teach them the character and leadership required to be successful after high school.

Nieves, 17, the company commander, plans to join the Air Force after she graduates this coming spring. She said she was very proud of the unit for its performance and how well its members worked together. She thanked her staff and Smith and Ward for their support of the cadets.

j.bergman@theday.com

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