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Yokota students show precision, dedication

Yokota Air Base High School Junior ROTC students compete in the Far East Drill Competition against students from other base high schools April 3 at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Students participated in the three-day event, which included armed and unarmed drill, marksmanship, and track and field. (U.S. Navy photo/Seaman A.C. Rainey)

Yokota Air Base High School Junior ROTC students compete in the Far East Drill Competition against students from other base high schools April 3 at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Students participated in the three-day event, which included armed and unarmed drill, marksmanship, and track and field. (U.S. Navy photo/Seaman A.C. Rainey)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- "Squad, halt!"

The uniformed members in polished dress shoes marching in formation with shined-brown rifle stocks parading in a small gym come to a stomping halt. The nine young men and women stand at a position of attention. These young men and women aren't servicemembers -- they're high school students. They are the members of the Yokota High School Junior ROTC.

Students of Yokota's Junior ROTC competed in the Far East Drill Competition against students from other base high schools April 2 through 4 at Yokota High School. More than 12 schools and 200 students from Guam to Yokosuka to Korea showed up for competitions involving marksmanship, military drill, military knowledge, and finally track and field.

"Once a year they get to do their thing," said Lt. Col. Robert Mateer, the senior instructor at Yokota High School. "You need to have these drill competitions to measure yourself to see if you measure up to be the very best."

Because of the distances between high schools in Pacific, the students don't have anyone to compete against, Colonel Mateer said. The event is an opportunity for the different teams to get together and practice what they learned in the classrooms. They can then take what they learned to become the leaders of tomorrow.

"Today was very difficult," said Luis Severin, a Yokota High School Junior ROTC cadet. "It takes determination, willingness and skill in order to perform what we did today."

Luis said some of the difficulties faced were the things people don't notice. Things like making sure there wasn't a single string hanging out of a uniform's seam or aligning the brass going down a coat so that it's accurate to a dime. But he said the way he really learned to pay attention to is watching other teams drill, noticing what they did wrong, and making sure not to do the same thing.

The competition ended showing what a year's worth of practice built for Yokota's future leaders: discipline, precision and confidence.