Greenwood NJROTC Visits Vanderbilt


Left to right: Artisan Dolby, Luke Rhoton. Sarah Richey, Hailey Welson, Katrina Fjeld, Ashton Bell, Logan Flesher, and Myron Salvador.

By Hailey Welson, Reporter

8 cadets, along with Lt. Colonel Larson from the NJROTC program, received an opportunity to visit Vanderbilt University. The overnight field trip lasted for a majority of Thursday, March 2 and half of Friday, March 3. It showed the students how Vanderbilt’s Naval and Army ROTC units operated, provided information about the benefits of ROTC in college, and even got to go through some physical training with the midshipmen (a midshipman is a naval cadet in the US Navy).

At Vanderbilt, there are 2 ROTC programs–Navy ROTC, and Army ROTC. As Greenwood only has an NJROTC, us cadets spent almost the entire time with the Naval ROTC.

Each cadet that went on the trip was handpicked by Colonel–many cadets here wanted to go, but academic and physical capability took part in his choosing of the individuals. And, of course, if they had an interest for ROTC in their future.

We left around 10:00, and arrived at the NROTC unit an hour later. Us cadets were introduced to Lt. Ochoa, a naval instructor at the university, at the door. Mr. Dunn joined us shortly after–a lunch was planned, and he would eat with us and stay for a few classes before he returned back to Greenwood. We changed into our uniforms and then got to eat with the NROTC staff, some midshipmen who were available for lunch, and the Naval Service Training Command officer, Rear Admiral Lower Half–Mike Bernacchi. Admiral Bernacchi is a very important person in the Navy’s chain of command, holding the power to make valuable changes in our NJ/NROTC programs worldwide.

After lunch, the cadets attended 2 different Naval Weapons classes, taught by Lt. Jesse Ochoa and Staff Sergeant William Michner. They explained how technology used in the Navy has evolved and showed how it’s useful and the way some operate. We took notes, and some of the cadets even participated in the lecture by asking questions and giving answers.

Combined, the classes lasted for about an hour and a half. Principal Dunn left at this time to go back to Greenwood, and we accompanied Lt. Ochoa to the Vanderbilt Commons, where later we would eat dinner and breakfast the following morning. There, we went inside a large classroom upstairs. Slowly, midshipmen trickled in, and the last to enter was Rear Admiral Bernacchi along with a few NROTC instructors. During this time, the midshipmen had time to ask Rear Admiral Bernacchi questions pertaining to NROTC and how it can be improved, or even about Naval careers and concerns, such as becoming a nurse, as one midshipman inquired. None of us Greenwood students came forth, and soon the Q&A was over.

Yet, Rear Admiral Bernacchi walked back with Colonel and us cadets to the NROTC building, and met with us exclusively to hear us out about anything we had to say. Away from the intimidating college students, we opened up and easily kept a conversation flowing. His assistant came inside the room about an hour later, saying that their flight was leaving soon, but Rear Admiral Bernacchi, was still engrossed with the questions we were asking him that he stayed seated and she had to come come in the room for a second time.

Then, Admiral Bernacchi had to leave, so we shook his hand and took a little break in the conference room to catch up on our plans for the day. We were ahead of our schedule, but we went downstairs to where our stuff was and changed back into our neat civilian clothes and hung out in one of the classrooms upstairs for a while afterwards while Colonel talked to one of the other NROTC instructors. It was already 5:00 pm, and the next thing we had planned was a campus tour at 5:30.

Colonel stayed behind with the instructor, and us cadets left with three other midshipmen for the tour. By now, the sun was setting and it was pretty cold outside, as I was in a dress. The midshipmen showed us around the large campus for an hour, answering our questions as we went along.

Here, a midshipman explains how college students get their food, living spaces and parking arrangements.

They led us back to Vanderbilt Commons, where Colonel was waiting for us, and we could finally get food. There were different food choices: Chinese, American burgers, Italian cuisine, and a salad bar, with drink and dessert options lined up on one of the walls. All of us got our food and took seats at a table with other midshipmen. We ate, and the midshipmen were super friendly and even made some of us laugh with their humor of college life. It was nice to be able to sit and eat some delicious food and have a good laugh with people who shared common interests.

By the time we finished, it was already almost 8, and the midshipmen who gave us the campus tour led us back to the NROTC building, and they left afterwards. It was time to finally relax. We all took a shower and changed into our sleeping clothes. Most of us hung out downstairs in the dungeon, where there was exercising equipment. I was upstairs, in the girls’ room for the night (which happened to be the arcade room), playing video games on the Xbox. We all just hung out, until around 11:30 pm, where the guys went back to their room and slept. The girls (three of us) stayed up and talked, sharing stories and drama, until I fell asleep around 2:30 am. The other two girls didn’t get any sleep at all.

One of our guys banged on our door at 4:30 am, forcing us to get up. We all changed into our PT clothes and rushed out, and Staff Sergeant Michner was yelling at the boys. With every command that came out of his mouth, us cadets had to respond with “yes, Staff Sergeant”. The girls met him in the boys’ room, and he yelled at us to fold our cots and and sleeping bags quickly. Some of us made mistakes, and Staff Sergeant did catch them. It was a blurry, chaotic mess early in the morning, and after everyone had settled everything to his preference, we sat down and he had a talk about his education and the reality of joining the Marine Corps meant to him. Understanding the experience of his own journey helped open our eyes to a personal viewpoint of someone who knows what it’s like.

We went into the van and drove to an area near the Parthenon. The midshipmen were there, and it was very cold out, considering it was around 5:45 am in the morning. All the cadets and midshipmen stretched, and then got ready to run in formation–which is in a line, but in our case we had two lines side by side–and with a set cadence. I couldn’t keep up, so I went back to the van, but in total the rest ran 2 miles. Then, we had a race between the NROTC’s physical training instructor and one of our cadets. We won, and we got in the van afterwards, and drove back to the NROTC building to take a shower and clean ourselves up, put our stuff in the van, and walked over to the Vanderbilt Commons to eat breakfast.

Finished with breakfast around 8 am, we went into the Army part of the ROTC building, to the Major, and learned about how ROTC is there and the way they operate. While we didn’t stay there for very long, we did learn a few things about the benefits of joining Army ROTC. A lot of us were falling asleep, from waking up so early and eating a lot of food in the Commons. The whole thing lasted an hour and a half, but he gave us water bottles and t-shirts labeled “Army ROTC,” which we did thank him for. It was interesting–Vanderbilt gave me a whole new perspective on how I want to go into the Army in the future.

Finally, we got into the van, and drove back to Bowling Green. We did stop for lunch before returning to Greenwood–Shogun Express. Colonel did get a lot of sushi… and when I say a lot, I mean a LOT (Colonel, if you’re reading this, it did look good, I just don’t like the kind of sushi you got. Please don’t give me push-ups for making fun of how much sushi you ordered). It was 2:05 pm when we got inside of Greenwood.

Overall, the trip was amazing–getting to meet Rear Admiral Bernacchi, having fun with the other cadets, and learning about ROTC on a college level and talking to instructors who helped expand my views. Even though I’d rather go into the Army branch, gaining knowledge about the Navy ROTC was great to learn about. I would definitely go on this trip again if I got the chance.

Katrina Fjeld, a sophomore, says that the trip did broaden her horizons on joining the military. “

I’ve always been interested in the military and college, getting to see the ROTC unit and hearing the midshipmen speak about how those two aspects of their lives really well together reaffirmed my decision to join an ROTC program in college.”

— Katrina Fjeld

” Fjeld plans to join either the Navy or Marines in the future, and thinks that after going on this field trip twice, feels she is suited to one of the two branches.

Ashton Bell, another sophomore, says that the information he took away from the trip on how to become an officer in the Marine Corps. “Well, I knew that I wanted to be an officer in the Marine Corps, but I wasn’t sure on how I wanted to do that, or what was going to be required of me, and now I have a better understanding of what will be [expected]”. He adds: “I want to challenge myself by becoming an officer in the Marine Corps–the finest Marine Corps that this world has to offer”.

Lieutenant Colonel Larson also says that the trip showed him opportunities that the cadets here could benefit from. “I learned more about the Army program for college ROTC and about how many crosstown colleges they have for Vanderbilt’s Army ROTC… lots of opportunities. There are a lot of opportunities for our cadets [here].” He was also very pleased with how the few of us were hosted at Vanderbilt. “The Vanderbilt midshipmen did a great job with you guys, taking you all places, teaching you things.. I was overwhelmed with the fact we had time to spend with the Admiral, and we did a great job.

It was just a fun trip–lots of learning, it opened eyes.”

— Lt. Colonel Larson


The trip, overall, was informative and enjoyable for all who went. “That’s the whole reason of the trip–to learn about the opportunities and see if we can do something with it for each and every one of you guys,” Colonel Larson concludes. Until next year!