Ending a strong year with fun and games, Harker Heights Junior ROTC students tugged, hooped, and at times, dragged one another across the finish line during its organization day April 17.

Taking their usual celebration day off campus for the first time to Carl Levin Park, the battalion’s four companies competed in the hula-hoop pass, wheelbarrow race, three-legged race and the baton relay.

Teams finished their friendly competition with a tug-of-war and touring a static display of military and city vehicles.

Harker Heights junior Jasmine Sausedo said the day of fun and education follows the battalion’s official inspection, which the group passed at gold star level this year. It was not the official federal inspection, but a practice year.

“It’s about motivation and celebration for us,” she said. “We have the team-building events and the races and we have the displays to learn about the military.”

During three years in JROTC, Sausedo said her confidence soared, allowing her to speak publicly and to help lead and organize events. She commands the battalion’s female color guard.

The cadet command staff, which led the battalion of 156 students, dressed in pirate, fairy or superhero attire to add to the fun.

“It’s a break from the normal and it’s all in good fun,” said senior Shamiah Farrow, one of the leaders organizing the day of events.

Now a veteran of JROTC, Farrow said she was hesitant to join the group, but said it’s been a fun experience and along the way she’s learned more than ever about the way of life her soldier father chose.

“We are really like a family,” she said of the JROTC battalion.

Harker Heights senior Emily Schroeder said she followed her sisters into JROTC and was glad she stuck with it throughout high school.

“I have such a diverse group of friends,” Schroeder said. “It’s so much bigger than just another class.

“I like that we are rewarded for what we do with ranks and stars.”

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