Racing to recognize our armed forces

Safwan Abdul-Salaam crosses the finish line in first place, followed by Guillermo Orozco, during the Hillside High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps 5K held at the school’s track in February. (Staff photo by Diana Lopez)

Back in February, the Hillside High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps hosted a 5K at the school’s track. The event was done to celebrate 100 years of JROTC. The 5K takes place annually to celebrate one more year of JROTC, and it is required that most cadets enrolled in the program participate in the event.

The event started with all cadets being led outside by class leaders where they are required to form up, march down to the track and get ready for the race. This most recent time, all students lined up waiting for Command Sgt. Maj. Isaac Crespoarce to say the race had started. Everyone participating had to run, walk or jog 13 laps around the track. The majority of the participants ran the entire distance, only slowing down at times to catch their breath.

Cadet Lt. Col. Safwan Abdul-Salaam completed all 13 laps in 27 minutes and finished in first place.

Abdul-Salaam was followed by Cadet Sgt. Guillermo Orozco and Cadet 1st Sgt. Brian Parkstone, and Crespoarce. All other cadets followed behind very closely. The end of the race was marked with all cadets taking a group picture with the winners running through the finish line banner.

This event makes me, along with many other cadets feel pride about our program. JROTC isn’t like any other class – we are all a family. This event is to show the community the closeness of the program’s cadets. I feel like by doing annual events like these, it proves to other people the purpose of JROTC. The event will take place next year on the same day (in late February) at Hillside. The Hillside JROTC program will also host several other events this year like the Military Ball and Warrior Day. Those two events, along with the 5K are annual events planned and executed by the JROTC leaders.

Several of the cadets said they really like to participate in these events because it gives all of us a chance to learn more about the program and how it came to be.

JROTC was originally started by Army Captain Alden Partridge under the National Defense Act of 1916. The focus of JROTC was on secondary schools (Grades 9-12). This authorized high schools to use military equipment and the assignment of active duty military personnel as instructors.

In 1964, most active duty instructors were replaced with retired members of the armed forces. Title 10 of the U.S. Code declares, “The purpose of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is to instill in students in United States secondary educational institutions the value of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment.”

I think that this is the reason why everyone enrolled in JROTC takes a role in leadership as they spend more years in the program. We are all learning to become better citizens. The JROTC program is helpful to students because they get a sense of what it means to be disciplined and to take leadership. Every student is given the opportunity to lead the company in which they are placed.

If you don’t know much about JROTC, remember that is important to the community. We always give back, such as through our service learning trips around town when we help our community. Whether it is going to gardens and farms to weed or to the Salvation Army to volunteer, it teaches cadets that doing things for others without expecting anything back is always a great thing.


Diana Lopez, a staff writer for the VOICE next year, is a rising Hillside High senior and a sergeant in the JROTC.