Military chants, cheers, shouts and screams could all be heard from the judges and JROTC participants at the Pine Belt Pentathlon Raider Challenge held on Saturday, March 7.
The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps holds Raider Challenges nationwide showing off tests of strength, communication and teamwork. With the Pine Belt Pentathlon being held at Petal High School, JROTC teams from the Gulf Coast region, Jackson area and parts of Louisiana united to see which team is the best.
Cadet Captain Esquily Vargas from New Orleans Marine Maritime Academy explained why they made the commute for this year’s pentathlon and what it means to them.
“It is here to build motivation, like on top of us building character. We are here to win. To show up, to show out, that’s what we want everyone to know we’re here for,” Vargas said.
Parts of the Pine Belt Pentathlon included a modified PT test, casualty evacuation relay, logistical resupply relay, tactical resupply recovery, a timed run on the raider gauntlet obstacle course and a tug-of-war competition. These tasks are put in place to examine skill, agility, talent, coordination and effort.
Members of the USM ROTC Golden Eagle Battalion volunteered their time to judge the event. Southern Miss criminal justice major Cadet Joshua Willet, a past member of the Petal JROTC, described his experience being on both sides of the event as a participant and judge.
“As a judge, I got to witness everything I went through in life, all of the angst and pains I used to see on a day-to-day basis. But I enjoyed it thoroughly because through it I learned that not everyone is the same, and I can develop my leadership in different ways in how to take care of other people,” Willet said.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Lambeth, an instructor for the Southern Miss ROTC program, shared on the valued concept of teamwork and camaraderie in the JROTC teams when grading them at the pentathlon.
“One of the aspects of the military that we try to influence in our cadets, whether it is JROTC or ROTC, is that it is not about the individual. It’s not about me, it what is my team capable of. I may not live tomorrow, but the team survives, the mission goes on. When the JROTC students come out tired and hungry in whatever they’re doing they got to be able to rely on a team,” Lambeth said.
Through the teamwork and physically demanding situations these JROTC students go through daily they gain life-long lessons that help benefit them in future goals. Vargas, who wants to be an orthopedic surgeon, describes the behaviors she has learned to help her in the long run from JROTC.
“I never went to a school that valued my education, they were there just to be there. At NOMMA it is a type-two charter school which is diverse, but it is the JROTC that gives us the education to go through life, the tools in life to be successful like being a good communicator, having great leadership, taking initiative, having discipline. These are real things to take in life besides the Pythagorean theory,” Vargas said.