KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- Cadets in the region's various high school Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs spend hours drilling and honing their skills while building discipline.
It’s a pretty big sacrifice given the fact that the cadets are teenagers, who could be spending those hours out with their family or friends.
On Saturday, those cadets were filled with pride when they got the change to show off their hard work during a drilling competition at the University of Tennessee
"When I first entered middle school at Sale Creek, I saw everybody wearing uniforms,” said JROTC cadet Nicole Hayes. “So I said ‘hey, I want to do that, but I was rejected and couldn't join my sixth grade year."
However impressions can embed themselves pretty deeply, and six years after her first look into a possible future, Nicole and her fellow Sale Creek's JROTC cadets were marching in line on Saturday, in every sense of the word.
"By competing, it does help us develop special bonds with our team members," she said. "The mission of JROTC is to motivate young people to be better citizens."
By keeping formation, demonstrating responsibility and showing off their skills with a weapon, the program is very successful in laying the foundation for good teamwork, and the ability to follow orders.
"You get a job and you are going to have to learn how to work well with others in the work force,” said Alex Tacy, a JROTC cadet from William Blount High School. “You have got to be able to talk to them, and communicate with them well."
On Saturday, JROTC cadets at William Blount High School joined Sale Creek and others in front of the watch eyes of judges.
For most of them, they couldn’t help the personal transformation the program has helped them go through.
"I use to be real quiet, but now I'm more outspoken," said Sabrina Steward of Sale Creek JROTC.
Both William Blount and Sale Creek average about 50 students, which is less than half of the nearly 200 cadets at other schools.
However the spirit of discipline knows no numbers, and has left a lasting impact on neighbors through community service.
"It inspires other people to think that even if you're from a small community or a small country, you can still make a difference in the world,” said Alex. “There are not very many of us, but we do so much to help out the community that it really does make a difference.”
UT's Army ROTC program has put on the regional drilling competition for 14 years.
This year it drew teams from outside Chattanooga, all the way up to Fentress County.
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