Practice Makes Perfect – for the Third Time


Flexibility and consistency keys to winning JROTC competition.

Photo provided by MSgt Alvin JOHNSON
CVHS JROTC cadets 1st Lieutenant Ju Eun Kim, Cadet Captain Nathaniel Lee, Cadet 1st Lieutenant Matthew Kwon, and Cadet Master Sergeant Roy Yang stand proud after winning first place at a recent competition.



For the third consecutive year Crescenta Valley High School JROTC has come in first at the 5th Annual Drill Meet that was held at Santiago High School in Corona. The competition requires the JROTC cadets to follow guidelines laid out in a U.S. Army manual.

“There is a sequence of marching as well as our own specific movements with the flag or the rifle,” said Matthew Kwon, JROTC member of the winning color guard team and a senior at the Crescenta Valley High School. “It is a combination of that.”

The pressure to succeed is something always felt by the cadets and, after winning first place the last two years, there was a little extra pressure for them to bring home a third win, especially for Roy Yang who is the only junior on the team.

“[There] was definitely pressure,” Yang said. “If I do something [wrong] that would reflect on others.”

Teamwork is at the center of the competition and at the heart of the JROTC program at CVHS. The team is composed of four members: Yang, Kwon, and seniors Ju Eun Kim and Detail Commander Nathanial Lee.

When the team members arrived at Santiago High School they had some time to practice before they performed. In the past, they had been the first to compete but this time they were the fourth team, giving them some time to – well, maybe not relax but at least take some deep breaths while they prepared.

“I think it was teamwork,” said Kim when asked what he kept in mind during the competition.

Kim added he could perfect his own movements but that is not always good for the entire team. The focus is on working together, to perfect the team’s movements.

“It’s the whole sequence as a team,” he said. “They judge on precision.”

There were 12 to 20 teams competing in specific programs.

“There’s a standard operation procedure that they were to follow – how they uncase the colors, the way they present the colors and the way they do their drill movements,” said MSgt Alvin Johnson, teacher/mentor for JROTC.

All of these procedures are scored. Uncasing or unfurling the colors, or flag, is closely watched and judged.

“Uncasing the colors was worth 50 points,” Johnson said.

It was this score that had the CVHS team a little worried. When the scores were released it had been awarded only four points for uncasing. This was a surprise because the team members knew how they had performed.

“I think that moment, especially for Ju, Nathanial and me, [as seniors] it showed our growth,” Kwon said. “We recognized our skill and ability. We knew something was wrong … after hours of practicing we knew [there was] a mistake.”

Johnson said, as always, the JROTC color guard team was respectful. It waited until after the announcements were made before approaching the judge.

“We were baffled,” Johnson said of the low score.

The score meant that CV would not even place in the competition. The team members waited and went to the judge to ask about the score.

“The judge said, ‘Oh, I missed a zero.’ And we got 40 points instead of four. That took us from not placing to placing first.”

Johnson was proud of the way his cadets conducted themselves, not only during the competition but also after hearing the first reading of the scores.

“Anytime I take the cadets out I  get comments on how well they perform and how professional they are,” Johnson said.

Most of the JROTC students have been members of sports teams but say this program cultivates a different type of teamwork.

“You have to be consistent,” Kwon added.

“[We learn] respect and [the program] is a family environment, not just a classroom,” said Kim. “We are close together and that is what brings our teamwork together.”

“You learn a lot about yourself and your limits. You can recognize what your strengths are and [the strengths] of others, and that adds to the bond among you,” Yang said.

He added that knowing what a teammate can or cannot do makes the group, as a team, adapt and enhances that ability to be flexible.

In addition to bringing home first place in the color guard competition the four members of the CVHS JROTC were the last four standing during a drill competition.

JROTC is a leadership program; it does not train members to join the military. Kwon and Yang are not interested in continuing in the military while Lee and Kim are planning a military career.

Regardless of what their plans are after high school, the program provides a value that the students take with them throughout their lives.

“I think it’s being flexible and being able to work as a team,” said Kwon.