South Aiken High School's Naval Junior ROTC unit welcomed newcomers for their first day of freshman orientation on Monday.

Senior C.J. Campbell was there to help out as he gets ready for his final year. He doesn't have to think long about the person who got him into ROTC – his older sister, Jessie, a former executive officer at South Aiken. She has graduated from Mary Baldwin College after four years of ROTC and is participating in officer training this summer.

“Jessie has continued to be a great influence,” Campbell said. “She set me up for this. I really enjoy it, and she will show me the ropes to get into the military. I was a kid when Jessie started here, and it was amazing to watch.”

Larry Laughlin, the unit commander, said the orientation is a great way for freshmen to get an idea of the opportunities offered by NJROTC. There are six teams from which to choose – among them orienteering, rifle team, academic and drill teams and CyberPatriots online competitions.

This is a chance for the ninth graders to “work hard and become part of a family culture,” Laughlin said. “We teach a lot about leadership and citizen development.”

Junior cadet Tyler Adkins said NJROTC has become a big part of his life. From the start, he wanted to become a member of the drill team and has enjoyed that experience.  Brittney Black, also a junior, learned about the program and said she was “surprised how much fun it was.”

Freshmen Michael Duran and Ian Hoffman developed an interest in NJROTC while attending Kennedy Middle School. Even on day one, Duran already was excited about the program. Hoffman is intrigued by the CyberPatriots, which brings teams together to remove viruses from virtual computers. The contest can pit the South Aiken squads against opponents who could be overseas, as well as throughout the U.S.

“I've been really into computers my whole life,” Hoffman said. “I could see this as a way to get into college.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.

Editor's note: In an earlier version of this article,  Brittney Black was misidentified. The Aiken Standard regrets the error.