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Out of 400 teams from throughout the country, the Crook County NJROTC program will be sending a team of four members to a national academic competition in July

SUBMITTED BY SCOTT SVOBODA
 - Left to right, front row: Daniel Olson and Jonah Bainbridge. Back row: Van Williams, Josephine Kasberger and Benjamin McWilliams.Out of 400 teams from throughout the country, the Crook County NJROTC (Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps) program will be sending a team of four members to a national academic competition in July.

The team first competed last year and has earned a spot on the national stage. The team will consist of Daniel Olson, Josie Kasberger, Van Williams and Benjamin McWilliams. Jonah Bainbridge was also planned to go but graduated early and will be in Army Basic Training after school is out. McWilliams was the original alternate for the team and was permitted to participate in the first two levels of competition—but not permitted, however, to travel with the team to Washington, D.C., for the championship. He will be able to travel in the place of Bainbridge.

Cadet Lieutenant Commander Daniel Olson, company commander for the Crook County program and academic team commander, is currently a junior at Crook County High School and expressed his excitement for his team's accomplishment.

Olson joined the Crook County NJROTC his freshman year. They did not have an academic team at that point. In the fall of his sophomore year, they went to an area tournament—which consists of NJROTC schools in their area. It consists of a large portion of the West Coast minus Southern California and includes Hawaii, Guam and Navy schools in Japan. They competed in Washington State for the competition and placed fifth out of 16 teams.

"Which was very encouraging for our first time," he went on to say.

There are two categories of competitions—Navy-specific academic tournaments and joint service tournaments—which means all the JROTC programs representing the different branches of military service coming together. The upcoming competition for Nationals will include the joint service competition in Washington, D.C. The team qualified for the competition by competing in two preliminary virtual rounds, eventually securing one of eight spots to advance.

"We had to make it past two rounds of elimination," he added.

They placed ninth in the final round, and another team was not able to attend the future national competition. Crook County NJROTC competed against 400 other teams.

"That bumped us up to eight and gave us a slot to go to D.C.," he said.

Olson concluded that regardless of the outcome of the competition, it is a wonderful opportunity to see sites in Washington, D.C.

"It will be a good experience no matter what we place. It will be a learning experience for everyone, and I think that we will all enjoy our time—even if we get eliminated in the beginning—we will have more time to experience D.C. as well. It's a win-win no matter what happens."

Senior Naval Science Instructor for the Crook County NJROTC program, Scott Svoboda, retired from the Navy Reserve in September 2018, and in February 2019, he joined the teaching staff at Crook County High School. Svoboda is extremely proud of his students' achievement in making it to the National competition.

He stressed that the content of the championship questions will be extremely difficult to study for, as it involves such a wide variety of topics and information. The national event is also not Navy-specific in the question topics.

Svoboda noted that this is the first year for his students competing in the competition. Svoboda is in his second year as the program instructor, as he replaced Russ Robison, who retired in 2019. Long-time instructor Donny Jackson also retired earlier this school year. Jackson was the first instructor for the Crook County program and helped build it into the successful program it has become.

The mission and goals for the Naval Science program are governed by laws passed by Congress, rules and procedures established by the Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), and policies and regulations set out by local school districts. According to the CCHS school website, "That mission is to provide a course of leadership education designed to develop informed citizens, strengthen character by teaching discipline, and develop an understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship. The curriculum, instruction and activities are all designed to teach leadership, responsibility and accountability."

"The academic championship questions are SAT/ACT related," clarified Svoboda. "Credit for the team's success goes to these students for their hard work and to their other teachers for helping them navigate and master their respective subject areas," he went on to say. "NJROTC merely opened up for them this opportunity to showcase their learning, ultimately leading to the trip this summer."

Junior Josie Kasberger is one of the academic team members. She has only been in the Crook County NJROTC program since the beginning of this school year. She said it is nerve-racking, but she looks forward to the experience. She added that the structure of the competition will make it difficult to study for.

"It's a lot of current events, so keeping up with those kinds of things," she noted of how they are preparing for the competition. "Also, grammar and spelling, and we have been watching a lot of the older competitions to see what types of questions and how the rounds go."

Van Williams is also a junior and member of the Academic team.

"It is pretty big in my mind, due to it being on a national level," he said of the enormity of their team going to the national competition.

He is trying to focus on the competition and pointed out that the team is trying to study, although there is only so much they can study for with the broad spectrum of the questions and content—which is based off SAT/ACT content.

"This is testing our general knowledge. It's a surprise that tiny Crook County ended up doing that," he concluded of the team's inclusion on the contest.


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