San Benito ROTC has a shot at national tourney

SAN BENITO — Unlike the movie “Major Payne,” being a cadet goes beyond running in the rain and crawling under barbed wire.

Soon, cadets here will head north to show people what they are made of.

The San Benito Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps has qualified for Area 10 State Drill Competition for the second year in a row.

This month, cadets will be competing for one of two spots at Nationals at College Station.

Chief Timothy Wilson, in charge of the unit, said last year’s win had been 15 years in the making and this year is continuing that tradition.

“They got there because of their effort and not us,” Wilson said.

With the light bouncing off the medals on his uniform, Jesus Ayala, the cadet commanding officer, held a clipboard as he followed Wilson down the line of cadets for a uniform inspection recently.

“There are a lot of opportunities to do things I thought I’d never have,” Ayala said.

Ayala is in his fourth year of the program and has enlisted in the military.

He said the program reaffirmed his decision to join the military after graduation.

“The program has helped me not only appreciate the community but really do everything I can to help improve it,” Ayala said.

Cadet Stephanie Cantu was in a similar program in middle school and decided to continue in high school.

“I feel like I have become a better person,” Cantu said. “I’m a better leader. I’ve learned how to care for others and teach others.”

Cadet training goes beyond physical fitness.

Robotics, academic knowledge and leadership are just some of the skills offered through the program.

Cadet Senior Chief Joshua Medina began his first year with NJROTC’s drill team but decided it wasn’t for him and moved on to leading the robotics team called the Sea Perch.

Medina said the team got him thinking about an engineering career within the military.

“It started my sophomore year,” Medina said. “It’s really fun and it really did teach me how to be a better leader.”

While Medina is no longer part of the drill team he said he’s seen the work they have been putting in and wishes them the best.

The state competition is comprised of the drill, armed and unarmed, personal inspection, physical fitness and academics, which involves an exam that contains a number of items including ROTC information, current events and sometimes math.

“I’m actually very excited to go to competition in February,” Cantu said. “I feel like my teammates and myself really worked hard for this opportunity that we have.”

The program contains 196 students, 42 of whom will be headed to competition.

Wilson said the unit takes pride in representing their school and community.

“The success of the program is on the students,” Wilson said. “I just tell them I’m the bus driver.”

Areas of competition

• Drill

• Armed/Unarmed

• Academics

• Physical Fitness