MATTOON, IL -- On October 16, 2019, Mattoon High School hosted the annual JROTC Beret Ceremony to honor and/or initiate cadets that participate in the main three JROTC teams--the Drill Team, Raiders, and Rifle Team. Sergeant 1st Class Stokes, their Army Instructor (AI), and Major Peterson, their Senior Army Instructor (SAI), spoke to the assembled cadets and their families before cadets were awarded Arc Pins, Red Berets, and Certificates honoring their contributions to the teams. Regardless of which team cadets participate, teamwork is the common goal. Determination and drive propels these cadets to wake up early and stay after school to practice for upcoming competitions.
Cadet Private 1st Class Elyse Jenkins, a MHS Sophomore and member of both the Drill and Raider Teams, considered the ceremony a great way to prove to people that she and the rest of the cadets on the teams are not just stereotypical teenagers. They are hardworking, driven, determined, and overall, ‘“special.” Cadet 1st Lieutenant Tyler Craig, a MHS senior and Raider, felt a mixture of pride, unity, and purpose as he was given his award. He was glad that he and his fellow cadets were recognized, and he believes that the ceremony helps cadets to officially feel like they are part of the team. He added that he took it to heart when Major Peterson said, “We are the leaders of tomorrow.”
While many of the cadets were somewhat nervous standing in front of the crowd, C/ 1LT Craig’s and C/ PFC Jenkins’ sentiments were echoed among the other cadets. The Beret ceremony traditionally represents more than the issuance of awards and certificates. For some cadets, the ceremony represents a team initiation. For other cadets, the ceremony serves to act as recognition for hard work. For all, it was a nice opportunity to hang out with like-minded peers on a journey to achieve a common goal.
For those unfamiliar with the teams recognized at the Beret Ceremony, below is a brief description:
- The Drill Team specializes in ceremonial marching and drill sequences involving the aerial rotation and manipulation of demilitarized rifles. Coordination is key, as C/ PFC Jenkins knows. She relates that she has become better at coordinating time, managing stress, and the balancing of schoolwork since she joined.
- The Rifle Team practices quality marksmanship utilizing air rifle to hit targets from prone, standing, and kneeling positions at a distance. This sport requires a steady hand and a focused mind.
- The Raiders push their bodies to the limits, as they complete challenging feats of athleticism. They sweat and toil throughout their season and beyond as off season training is required to maintain excellence. Cadets must have strength, speed, endurance, and grit. Cadet Harley Moore, an MHS Freshman and Raider team member, said that being a Raider has given him more opportunities to work out and and know his physical limits. He also claimed that it helped him have an easier time talking to people through volunteering.