DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps will be sending a contingent of 30 top cadets who will represent Hawaii in the elite NJROTC National Drill Competition in Pensacola, Fla., April 4-5. These are some of the members who are headed to Florida: Allan Saoit, Robert Firme, Dale Quimoyog, Frederick Galo, Robinson Bucanea and James Carig.
Elite junior officers stick to cadence
The youth program is sending 30 isle kids to a national competition
Dale Quimoyog is only 5 feet tall, but to his Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps leaders, he might as well be 9 feet tall. "He's a natural leader. If you want a job done, he'll get it done as well as any man," said Cmdr. John Hutchison, head of the school's NJROTC.
Donations can be sent to NJROTC, Campbell High School, 91-980 North Road, Ewa Beach, HI 96706.
Quimoyog is one of 30 top cadets representing Hawaii in the elite NJROTC National Drill Competition in Pensacola, Fla., April 4-5. It's the first time a unit from Hawaii is going to the nationals, said Hutchison, who co-founded the program 15 years ago.
The team has been awarded the Distinguished Unit prize for being one of the top 10 in the nation for the past 10 years, he added. Its 163 students take to heart the unit's core values: honor, courage and commitment, and look to their cohorts as a second family. With many of their parents working two jobs and unable to spend quality time at home, "their identity is rooted in ROTC," Hutchison believes.
His kids practice any chance they get -- before and after school, and lunchtime. Their dedication gives Hutchison "chickenskin," he said, especially upon finding dozens of them marching in cadence, their voices bouncing off the blacktop at 6 a.m.
Their weekends are filled with community service projects, another requirement of the program whose basic aim is not to promote joining the military as much as to "produce good citizens" with strong academic credentials, Hutchison said.
He and teachers Gary Lairsey, also a program co-founder, and Linda Naki have made the program "meaningful and fun ... we're like cheerleaders.
"We never scream in their faces, like the typical boot-camp movies show. We point out: Look what you can do! ... But we don't put them down if they fail. ... We're full of love for these kids, and they've responded," Hutchison said.
Pointing to a bulletin board filled with photos of graduates who've kept in touch, he rattles off their names, histories and current achievements. Many of them went on to prestigious military academies, and a quarter have enlisted.
Quimoyog is the latest in the line of students who Hutchison predicts will also go on to make his mark. He thinks Quimoyog is astronaut material, but for now the teenager is just aiming to be the executive officer of the unit. He's already cadet command master chief, the highest enlisted rank, and will lead the drill team at the nationals.
Quimoyog never thought a career in the military was for him, but Hutchison's wife spotted a spark of potential worth fanning while he was selling Star-Bulletin newspapers in front of the local McDonald's. She urged Hutchison to recruit him.
Quimoyog was resistant at first: "I thought it was for geeks ... I didn't like the military at all." But, he confides, "I was kind of a punk -- with a pidgin accent."
The unit has already raised $25,000 of the $30,000 it needs to go to the nationals through car washes, book sales and donations. The balance is on Hutchison's charge card because they're too busy practicing to do any fundraising, but plan to resume when they get back, he said.