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Mariner JROTC scores high

By Staff | Apr 26, 2018

The standard of excellence continues for Mariner High’s JROTC Leadership Team.

For the second year in a row, the junior reserve officer training corps has placed in the top 3 percent of the world’s 1,329 teams, and will return to the 2018 US Army Leadership and Academic Bowl Championship in June in Washington D.C.

The team comprised of Commander Rhys Bastien, Mason Dennard, Auryana Player and Sarah Gerega will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Championship event held at The Catholic University of America. Bastien and Dennard competed last year as well.

Coach of the team, retired Sgt. Maj. Kimberly Williams, is extremely proud of her group and is happy with the impact she’s making at Mariner.

“Every day you can make a difference here, even if it’s just one student,” said Williams. “I feel I can bring all of my experience in the Army to the classroom, and I feel I make a bigger impact here on a daily basis. Our goal is to make better citizens.”

Williams says she’s always felt a calling to the classroom.

“I knew I wanted to teach, my father is a professor, and I spent a lot of time in the Army teaching journalism and media courses. I can bring a whole different experience to the classroom and I love to help kids become more successful in high school; it can be a hard transition from middle school. I retired from the Army in 2014, and only took one month off before coming to Mariner, and it’s a decision that changed my life for the better.”

Mariner’s JROTC Leadership team has worked tirelessly to get to this point, practicing once a week from 1:45 to 4:30 p.m. and drilling from a 1,500 question bank after school to bolster their knowledge for competition.

In November, teams across the world were competing in online competition, testing their knowledge of JROTC curriculum and current events, to prove they had what it took to place in the top 40 in the world. That’s just what Mariner did for the second time in as many years.

The team also competed live at the District competition in January, where they placed first against all other JROTC programs in the Lee County School District. Almost every JROTC program at Mariner is nationally ranked.

Commander Rhys Bastien, a junior at Mariner, is determined to improve on the teams respectable ninth place finish last year.

“We want to be top 5 in the world, which is an extremely hard goal, but we feel we can achieve it,” said Bastien.

“Last year we had no idea what we were getting into. This year, we know what’s coming and can use our experience and notes from last year to better prepare ourselves for competition.”

Bastien is a determined young mind, but also loves the comradery he feels as part of the JROTC Leadership Team at Mariner.

“The commander from last year’s team asked me to join the Leadership Team and we ended up making nationals. It was a huge accomplishment. This year, I’m taking my title and using it to better my teammates. I want to get the most out of them, I see potential in them, but I am doing so in a nurturing way. My pride is my legacy.”

The JROTC program has been a great tool for Bastien as well.

“This program benefits our students in so many ways,” Bastien said. “Team positions such as my role as commander, and others, give us the opportunity to build self-confidence. I’ve learned so many valuable life skills and it has helped me grow and mature as a person.”

Bastien is steadfast on leading his team into D.C. to accomplish its goals.

To accomplish those objectives however, the group will need to be sharp in several rounds of competition.

The National stage is all about functioning as a leadership team, Williams said.

Events include Leadership Greats, which is the history of four-star generals such as MacArthur, Powell and Marshall.

The Leadership Gauntlet will be more of a hands-on competition, with team-mates working together through 10 stations to solve problems.

The “Outside the Box” portion will see cadets apply leadership skills to real life scenarios.

Next, the Leadership Reaction Course phase will see teams scrambled together to form groups with all different members. From there, they will go station to station solving problems, each person having to take the helm accomplishing tasks as the leader.

The last portion of the event will see teams link up with other programs around the world to create a 60-second video on “Army Values.” The Mariner JROTC program will join four other schools to present on “Honor.”

Sgt. Maj. Williams is so grateful to the College Options Foundation which conducts this event every year.

“This foundation rewards kids who always get looked over in high school competitions. My kids were so elated to find out we were going back to D.C., they cried.”

An added bonus to this trip is getting to experience the educational bonanza that is Washington D.C.

The team is trying to raise money to arrive in the nation’s capital two days early to explore historical landmarks and museums before the championships begin.

Commander Bastien has started an online donation service, all contributions are greatly appreciated and will truly give these great students an even more amazing experience.

To donate, go to gofundme.com/MLAJLAB2018.