Waco High School JROTC students attempt to retract a tire attached to a M777 Howitzer during a March 8 field trip to Fort Hood hosted by the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

U.S. Army/Sgt. Quentin Johnson

Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets experienced military operations firsthand during a March 8 visit to Fort Hood.

Approximately 70 Waco High School students enjoyed their JROTC end-of-year field trip hosted by the 3rd “Red Dragons” Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Willie Jones, JROTC senior army instructor.

Cadets were introduced to multiple weapon systems — the M-240B machine gun, M-249 machine gun, .50-caliber Browning machine gun, artillery equipment, the M109A6 Paladin, M777 Howitzer and M992A2 FA Ammunition Supply Vehicle, said 1st Sgt. Marty Kerekes with Alpha Battery.

After visiting Red Dragon soldiers, cadets had lunch at the Black Jack Dining Facility followed by a visit to the 1st Cavalry Division Museum, Kerekes said.

“(Red Dragons leadership) wanted to give the students a general and fun overall view of military operations,” Kerekes said. “We would like the cadets to take away a sense of pride for themselves, their equipment and uniforms.”

“The soldiers were great, very professional,” 12th-grader Alfredo De Leon said. “(Soldiers) were very familiar with the equipment and weapons. I have a better understanding of why the military is here and service they provide.”

Having a better understanding of military procedures is good knowledge for cadets, Jones added. Cadets will take that knowledge and apply it to their daily tasks, training and overall discipline.

“Soldiers are the professional influence the cadets need,” Jones added.

Jones said almost 50 percent of his cadets have claimed interest in joining a branch of the U.S. military with several seniors already enlisting in the Army National Guard or Reserve.

“Some are future soldiers and if not, JROTC will make them better citizens,” Kerekes said. “We enjoyed having them here and so did our soldiers.”

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