SM North NJROTC places sixth at national competition

Anna Miesner, Writer

SM North’s ROTC competed in nationals in Pensacola, Florida on April 6 and 7.

Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Grayless was pleased with the outcome of nationals, with the team placing sixth overall.

“Our goal is to win it,” Grayless said. “But we gave everything we had to get there and I’m proud of those kids.”

Grayless has been leading the North ROTC for 14 years; however, this wasn’t always his plan.

“The plan [after high school] was I’d spend four years in the Marine Corps, get out of the Marine Corps and move back to my hometown in Indiana to become a police officer,” Grayless said. “When I got in the Marine Corps I really liked what it stood for. Everyone was treated the same, it didn’t matter what you looked like, didn’t matter what gender you were, it didn’t matter what your religion was. If you worked hard you got recognized.”

Grayless likes what ROTC teaches students.

“Some of the values that [the] Marine Corps teaches you is what the ROTC program teaches you,” Grayless said. “Honor, courage, commitment, being selfless and being responsible. I think that’s something where many young people today lack.”

Grayless believes the best thing about coaching is seeing students grow.

“The greatest thing about coaching is not when you have a great kid, when a great kid does something you know they’re going to do that,” Grayless said. “The greatest reward for a coach is when someone that didn’t think they were very good but they kept working, and they kept working, they become pretty good. They do something they think they weren’t capable of doing.”

Senior Calvin Tran competed at nationals and was pleased with the outcome.

“We did extremely well,” Tran said. “This is one of the nationals where it gets very competitive. So overall drill work with us went exactly as we wanted it to be.”

However, Tran has some worries about recruiting next year.

“We’re very senior stacked this year, so a lot of juniors and sophomores need to step up in fill the shoes,” Tran said. “What we need to focus on is overall is to maintain our level of competitiveness in drill and overall improve in athletics this year. We got caught a lot [in nationals] this year over small things like form. We need to make sure we’re practicing right, and as long as we keep maintaining this throughout the drill we’ll always be one of those top teams at nationals.”

Tran thinks Grayless is exactly the coach that can help these students succeed.

“He wakes up every morning and stays after school to work with us,” Tran said. “He’s a hard coach and that’s what we need to be successful, but he’s a very fair coach.”

Senior Alex Ruiz also competed in this year’s nationals and thinks students take away skills from ROTC.

“I think one of the really great skills is definitely the leadership aspect that you don’t really get in a classroom environment,” Ruiz said.