Over the summer, the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) participated in a week-long excursion at the Marine Corps Base Hawai’i (MCBH) in Kaneohe. Nine students from Kaiser attended, accompanied by Senior Master Sergeant Mike Paquin and Lieutenant Colonel John Sykes. The MCBH hosted a Cadet Leadership Course (CLC) for one Navy school and four Air Force schools from across the island. In addition, the University of Hawai’i’s ROTC took the leadership role in mentoring the 64 cadets who attended the event.
“The week was full of hands-on activities with some classroom time where [students] got to practice leadership abilities,” said Sykes. The event took place at various sites and featured many career insight experiences, such as observing a specialized bomb squadron procedure, utilizing real fire hoses, and entering into a V-22 Osprey helicopter simulation. The cadets also viewed a military dog in action, observed flight operations from a control tower, visited the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor, and watched drone launches.
According to Kaiser students, one of the more interesting demonstrations was watching the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) squadron diffuse a bomb using a programmed device. Senior Teia Chutaro, who is First Lieutenant, Alpha Squadron Commander, and Armed Exhibition Drill Commander of the AFJROTC program said, “My favorite [activity] would be the flight simulations because they’re actually pretty realistic and have similar controls to that of an actual helicopter cockpit. It was so life-like that one student started experiencing motion sickness symptoms. It feels like you’re actually ascending from the ground and flying; you physically feel like you are in an aircraft.”
Along with these activities, the students spent much time practicing basic but integral leadership skills. They worked through hypothetical scenarios and were lectured on how to conduct others effectively, and then put those leadership skills to the test during drills. “We all learned to work as a team. Even when one person was put into position, all of us were leaders and were all there for the same purpose, said Chutaro. Junior Ross Tucker, the program’s Technical Sergeant, said, “The event had a good mix of training, touring military jobs, drills, and fun.”
With all the different forms of training, students were able to gain extensive knowledge of careers in the military. Ashton Ashimine (11), the squad’s Technical Sergeant and Saber Commander, said, “Each morning, students were woken up before dawn and had to stand at parade rest while the cadre inspected our barracks and made sure they were squared away.” These exercises gave the cadets-in-training the full experience. “We saw what they do every day around the base, how they live and where they eat,” Tucker said.
Despite all the hard work, not everything was back-to-back learning and toil. Cadets set aside time to honor those who have protected the country by serving in the military. They showed this appreciation through a “Taps” ceremony, during which participants stood in front of their barracks to salute those in service every night at 10 p.m. while trumpets played. “During the designated time, we thought about what the military has done for our country,” Chutaro said, “If you think about the meaning of Taps, it’s for all the fallen soldiers. It shows respect to those who have served and that’s why you have to stand in position. You are sacrificing that little time to stand there. You are reflecting on what our fallen comrades have done for the country and it’s just a moment of respect. It’s truly a beautiful scene.”
Contributed by Kera Nishimura and Natalie Clay