OZARK, MO -- In a year in which pandemic and its related complications have forced many JROTC programs to stand down or curtail activity for a time, the Ozark JROTC program has shown a determination to adapt and overcome. Despite the obstacles and adaptations we have faced this year, we have persevered and come out stronger than ever. The camaraderie that the battalion has demonstrated over the course of this year has been outstanding and we expect it to persist for years. While everyone in the battalion has endured challenges and trials to overcome, we would like to highlight how well everyone, especially our special teams, handled these challenges, restrictions, and cancellations.
The battalion has shown a commitment to maintaining activity as normally as possible, eagerly embracing whatever safety protocols enable us to do so. The tempo was set for this when our summer JCLC experience was cancelled. This event is a highlight of our year and cadets compete with each other for the opportunity to attend. With the loss of JCLC, our battalion organized a cadet summer activity week in which we came together daily for physical training and adventure activities, including canoeing, rock climbing, swimming, hiking, rope bridging, obstacle course training, team building, and ziplining. Thereafter, cadets continued to rally voluntarily throughout the summer for morning physical training sessions, in order to maintain relationships and strengthen themselves.
Ozark’s two drill teams, the Ozark Mountain Guard and Ozark Mountainettes, still report at 5:30am, 2-3 days a week to continue refining and harpening their skills. Their enthusiasm and optimism are undiminished even as scheduled competitions are cancelled and even knowing their end-of-season objective, Army and All-Service Nationals, is not guaranteed. They are committed to becoming the best they can be, even if the present pandemic limits opportunities to showcase their talent. They have recently submitted competition videos for their first virtual meet and are preparing to host the season’s first local drill meet, the Tiger Drill Classic.
Each fall, the Ozark Rifle Team hosts the “Show-Me” Shootout, with schools from all over Missouri invited to travel to Ozark to show what their shooters can do. The audience and competition looked a little different this year as all cadets as well as parents were required to wear masks and maintain social distance. The only period in which shooters were allowed to unmask was when in their position shooting; they otherwise remained masked at all times. Due to their uninterrupted commitment to practice and preparation, the Ozark Rifle Team was able to achieve 1st place in both Sporter and Precision categories as well as have several cadets from both teams placed in the individual shooters categories. Of greater pride than the outcome of that match, however, is the unity and perseverance the team has demonstrated through the pandemic.
COVID-19 may have made things harder and even hindered our events at times but the family-like bonds that have been created were well worth the struggle. Our Raider program has experienced its best year ever, despite pandemic. The program has attracted more cadets than ever before and they are working harder than ever before. We launched our season with our home meet, the 5th Annual Ozark Raider Fitness Crucible, an eight-event competition featuring 28 teams. Our female team took honors, our male team took 2nd place, and our top male Raider won the Ultimate Raider event. Our teams have placed 2nd or better at each of their four meets this fall. We finished as the top Missouri team at the state championship competition and finished neck-and-neck with the reigning national championship team at the final meet of the season.
The Ozark Tiger Battalion hosts its very own “Battalion Olympics” each year to bring cadets together for a day of friendly team competition. This event is planned, organized, and executed by our command and staff cadets. Although COVID-19 had already begun curtailing other activities at the school, the school approved our safety protocols to enable us to press forward with this popular event. Cadets from across the battalion teamed with our 8th grade “Leadership in Action” program to create new friendships and strengthen existing relationships. All cadets came away with new acquaintances and many came away with new friends.
While the present pandemic has created challenges for JROTC programs across the nation, as well as society in general, the Ozark Tiger Battalion has demonstrated a determination to do whatever it takes to remain as functional, competitive, and productive as possible. Cadet enthusiasm and optimism remain high as they gladly comply with the safety regulations, protocols, and restrictions placed upon them as a necessary cost of continuing to function as actively and dynamically as we do. This effort has paid great dividends in the emotional health of our cadets and the strength of our battalion. To paraphrase former Intel CEO Andy Grove, “poor programs are destroyed by crises; good programs survive them; great programs are improved by them.”