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ROTC Gives Teens a Taste of Military Life

July 07, 1998|EDWARD M. YOON

Fresh from a week of intense drills at a Navy base, 17-year-old Reseda High School senior Mellissa Thomas is finding the military milieu to her liking.

With just two months of ROTC training, Mellissa had little trouble with the armed drill exercises Monday during the first day of class at Reseda High's Naval Science summer school session.

"Actually, this is the first time I've ever used a rifle," said Mellissa, who is entering her senior year at Reseda High. "I'm taking summer ROTC to learn how to use the rifle a little bit more and hopefully I could make the drill team next year."

Mellissa said handling a rifle is easy compared with leading a platoon, which she did at times during a weeklong intensive academic military training program last month at the Naval Amphibious Base at Coronado Island.

During the week, Mellissa and six of her schoolmates--Anna Tolkunova, and Lenin Magana, who will be seniors in the fall, and juniors John Carnes, Juan Yoc, Paul Lucero and Erika Martinez--and 271 Naval Junior ROTC cadets from across the United States and Guam took part in marching, leadership training, armed drill and other military exercises.

The cadets accumulated points for leadership qualities, academics and inspection of barracks, bunks and uniforms, said Matt Seward, associate naval science instructor at Reseda High School, which implemented an ROTC program in 1995.

By week's end, three of the seven Reseda students placed in the top 10, including Mellissa, who finished ninth with 2,126 points out of a possible 2,200.

"I was pretty knocked out by how well we did, so maybe we're doing something right," Seward said.

John, 16, finished with 2,149 points, good for sixth overall. Anna, 16, finished seventh with a score of 2,143.

"I thought I was going to do fairly well and get a decent score, but I didn't think I'd be way, way up there," said John. "I was surprised that I scored that high."

Mellissa, however, was not surprised by her results. "I worked hard, so I knew I'd do well," she said.

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