Cadet team from Saipan get unique experience at JLAB

by Mr. Michael Maddox (ROTC)
U.S. Army

Washington, D.C. -- Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps teams have come from all across the globe to compete in the JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl (JLAB) on the campus of The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, June 24-27. One team flew for 20 hours and a distance of nearly 7,000 miles to compete.

Being in a challenge with the top three percent of JROTC Cadets is tough enough, but adding on a very long, tiring trip for the team from Saipan Southern High School, Saipan, MP, meant the team not only had to be prepared for strong competition, but also the battle against jet lag.

Command Sgt. Maj. (Retired) Richard Basa, Saipan Southern High School JROTC Senior Army Instructor, said taking part in JLAB is such a irreplaceable experience for his Cadets.

"Our Cadets are very unique because something like this is possibly a once in a lifetime thing for them," he said. "It's so different because on the island they can go 10 or 15 minutes from their home, now here they are in the nation's capital."

Saipan is an island that is about 50 square miles, and one of 14 small islands in the Pacific Ocean.
He added it's been a great learning experience for his entire team.

"It's been good for the students to come here and learn from other Cadets, and for myself to collaborate with other instructors," said Basa. "Only the best of the best come here to JLAB, and the Cadets can really benefit from that -- and they get to see something very different from what they are used to."

Cadet Matthew Kapileo said he believes hard work is what allowed the Saipan team to make it to DC.
"I'm also on the drill team, and being on that has changed a lot for me," he said. "It's taught me to be responsible and how to manage my time well. It's taught me that if you work hard every day, you get better."

Leadership team captain Cadet Natalia Javier said she has been enjoying being on the team in a different role.

"I was a member of the academic team before, so I got a feel for what to expect, but leadership is a whole different thing," she said. "I think our team has great cooperation -- we listen to each other and reach a consensus before we make a decision. We get along so well and know how each other works and that helps us be a successful team."

Kapileo said one of the most difficult challenges of taking part in JLAB was adjusting to the 14-hour time change difference.

"The jet lag didn't really hit me until we got into the dorms -- when we went to sleep it was pretty late because of the time difference. When we got up we were so slow moving, it was really hard," he said.

Javier said anticipation outweighed her jet lag.

"I don't think the jetlag kicked in at first -- it was just exciting to be here in DC," she said. "I've never been anywhere beyond the Philippines, so it's been amazing just to see all of these large buildings. Our island is really small compared to here."

"We survived the 20-hour flight because there was the incentive of coming here, meeting new people, interacting Cadets from all over," added Javier.

And that excitement continues to motivate her as all of the Cadets participating in JLAB are touring Washington, DC today.

"I really want to see the monuments because they are things you see in the movies but not in person," she said. "Being in the capital is amazing - it astounds me to be here."

JLAB brings together hundreds of students from around the world to participate in challenging leadership activities and in the largest academic bowl in the country. Cadets participate in teams of four high school students covering math, English, history and science. Students learn the values of leadership, citizenship, and academics through experiential and immersive learning, while simultaneously preparing for higher education milestones such as college entrance exams.

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