As a new school year began, it was time for a new slate of leaders in North Surry’s JROTC program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first several weeks of the 2020-2021 school year students remained at home engaged in remote learning.
This was nothing new for Cadet Commander Weatherly Reeves, who spent the majority of her tenure leading from home. Reeves took the helm as the top leader in January, only getting to lead in a normal setting for eight weeks before schools closed. It was an unprecedented time in education as school administrators and teachers went to emergency remote learning, teaching and leading their students from home via the internet.
It was uncharted waters.
However, Reeves and her leadership team, under the direction of First Sargeant Ken Goetzke and now retired Col. John Bowes, worked hard to keep the corps intact and running as smoothly as possible. Cadets met virtually, multiple times each week. Cadets were still required to take part in uniform day, even though they donned the uniform from home.
Like Reeves, Cadet Commander Aiden Oakley has been involved with JROTC for five semesters, holding numerous leadership roles. As Oakley took the helm, students were given the option to begin returning to school one day a week and just recently, they have been back in class at 50% capacity, going two days each week.
In discussing the hardest aspect of being the “top dog” in the corps right now, both Reeves and Oakley agreed that not always being able to communicate face-to-face is an obstacle. Reeves stated “JROTC is really hard to do online. A large part of JROTC is about building relationships and being in a virtual classroom, that’s not always as easy to do. However, it has been cool to see the growth in these cadets as they transition from all remote learning to face-to-face instruction. They really couldn’t understand how much fun JROTC is until they got to come back to school.”
In discussing what advice she would give to her successor, Reeves said “My time as commander was one of my most joyous moments during my JROTC career, and now that that portion of my journey has come to an end, it’s time for you to set out on your own journey. This time will prove to be difficult, but life is known for its difficulties. You must persevere and push forwards. You are a beacon for this unit, to guide its members towards greatness. Continue to create the leaders of the future, for they are the next generation. They will carry our legacy when we are gone.”
“In this day and time we all have fears, whether it’s about the pandemic or it’s a cadet being scared to lead. We have to be brave and pull through our fears. This is something that I have learned through being a leader and it is now very important to me,” Oakley said.
Even though it has been tough, the corps is still taking part in the community. Under Oakley’s command, cadets have met virtually with elementary school students who are in charge of their school’s flags. Cadets have taught these young students how to properly display, care for, put up and take down the flags.
They have also taken part in a virtual MS Biking Event. Cadets wrote letters of thanks to participants as well as letters of encouragement to MS patients. The corps will also virtually participate in a Red Cross Blood Drive to be held Oct. 29 at Calvary Baptist Church. Oakley said that due to many events being cancelled because of COVID-19, their community service hours are diminished this year, but headquarters has been understanding and flexible.
“This is a moment that will be looked upon for the rest of our history. During this time we can either give into despair or learn to dance in the rain. Leading a corps while never getting within six feet of someone is hard, but it’s not impossible. Yes, COVID-19 provided us with many obstacles, but it also strengthened our relationships. Knowing that we can weather this storm proves that we can weather any difficulty that comes our way,” Reeves added.
The Change of Command and Awards Ceremony was held virtually this semester.
Those willing awards presented during the ceremony include:
Air Force Association Award: Paolo Scotto, DiPerta McCain Griffith
Daedalian Award: Christian Noisey
American Legion Scholastic Award: Weatherly Reeves
Daughters of the American Revolution Award: Ciera Swatts
Sons of the American Revolution Award: Aiden Oakley
Military Order of the Purple Heart: Meredith Mauldin
Sons of the Confederate Veterans Hunley Award: Jesse Willard
Air Commando Association Award: Lukcus Hawks
Tuskegee Airmen Cadet Award: Elizabeth Montgomery, Kamron Martin, and Shalind Robinson
Leadership Ribbon: (Flight Sergeant) William Keller, Tylerkayne Baugus, and Shalind Robinson
Academic Cadet Badge: Meredith Mauldin, Anahy Rincon, Bryson Wilson, Samuel Benson, Lukcus Hawks, Aiden Oakley, Weatherly Reeves, Ciera Swatts, Shalind Robinson, William Keller
Principal’s Academic Excellence Award: Weatherly Reeves
SASI Outstanding Military Discipline Award: William Keller
ASI Military Academic Excellence Award: Tylerkayne Baugus
Flight Commander’s Award:
First semester, Anahy Rincon, Phantom Flight; Aiden Oakley, Spirit Flight; Weatherly Reeves, Sidewinder (Honor) Flight;
Second semester, Meredith Mauldin, Yeager (Honor) Flight; Lukcus Hawks, Sniper Flight; Jesse Willard, Sijan Flight.