JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps is the basis for many soldiers who begin training for their military careers before they actually sign up. The leadership development program fosters partnerships with communities and educational institutions.
"Through JROTC I have gained a lot of discipline and skills that other students wouldn't normally gain," said Stephanie Lanham, a student at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Wash., JROTC cadet battalion commander.
Forty JROTC cadets from the school's "Thunderbird Battalion" visited Joint Base Lewis -McChord on March 2. The purpose of the visit was to enhance their understanding of today's Army and what Soldiers at JBLM do.
"It's difficult doing some of the Soldier skills, but I'm always excited to learn," said Lanham.
Kimberly Houlihan is the cadet battalion sergeant major, she mostly enjoyed the weapons training the cadets received from the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST 2000).
"I am a part of the rifle team, but it's more realistic to come here and simulate shooting the weapons," said Houlihan.
Houlihan explained that JROTC sets her apart from others in her community, because of the responsibility she has been entrusted with.
"I tend to naturally take a leadership role, and I'm more confident," said Houlihan, a junior at Mt. Tahoma High School.
Sgt. Leon Gibson, a recruiter assigned to 6th Recruiting Brigade, escorted the cadets on the visit.
Gibson was a member of Navy JROTC and knows the impact of the program firsthand.
"In basic training, it seemed like I had an advantage over other Soldiers because I was already familiar with the military," said Gibson, a native of Santa Fe, N.M.
Lanham is currently the top leader of her battalion and has plans to join the military in the future. Throughout her four years in the program, she has held other leadership roles, such as color commander and physical strength team leader.
"I plan on attending Pacific Lutheran University to major in nursing and also participate in the schools ROTC program," said Latham.
Houlihan has plans to attend Louisiana State University as a criminology and psychology major. She also wants to participate in its ROTC program with hopes of one day becoming an Army officer.
"I appreciate programs that train future leaders of the military; it helps establish a knowledge base," said Gibson.
Kimberly Houlihan (right) and other Mount Tahoma High School JROTC cadets, observe rounds at the Engagement Skills Trainer at Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord, Wash. on March 2.