Taking Aim of What is in Range


Photo By Lacie Perry

Centering his target into his scope, Sophomore David Smithhart prepares to take his first shot of the round during marksmenship practice for JROTC. “Every time I shoot I just feel really calm and repeat ‘aim, shoot, reload’ in my head,” Smithhart said. “It’s what helps me stay focused when I get jittery or nervous.”

Lacie Perry , Reporter

Looking through the rifle scope, he takes in a deep breath, loosening his muscles while he focuses on the target at the end of the range. The sounds of the other airborne pellets on each side of him fade into the background as his focus heightens. As he begins to free his breath, the grip on the trigger tightens and sends the pellet flying as his muscles tense and his breathing begins to pace itself back to normal.

Sophomore David Smithhart, known by his troop as Cadet Smithhart, is a ranger in the Vista Ridge High School Navy Junior Reserves Officers Training Corps (JROTC), as well as a student here at CPHS. 

JROTC is a federal program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces that are available in most high schools across the country. It provides students with opportunities to have military-like experiences before they graduate, instills a sense of leadership, service to the community and the United States and personal responsibility. Each high school is home to a certain branch of the military that they instruct, which includes Airforce, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

“I’ve been involved in JROTC for about a year and a half now,” Smithhart said. “I started last year and I joined because I wanted to gain some more leadership skills and acquire responsibility that I was lacking. I knew I wanted to join since before high school but the realization hit when I actually saw the group, I looked at them and I was like ‘why not?’”

When Smithhart joined JROTC he didn’t know what to expect, he had never experienced anything like it but his expectations were met with reality very quickly. 

“The first thing I had to do when I joined [JROTC] was shave my head, we do it for a sense of equality among all of the cadets,” Smithhart said. “You’re also expected to keep yourself clean, and your fingernails can’t grow longer than the length of your fingertips. It’s just little things that I wasn’t expecting, you even have to make sure your shoes are shiny when you’re wearing your uniform.”

Smithhart’s involvement in JROTC has helped him focus on learning new strategies and has given him a sense of leadership.

“I’ve learned how to take a group of people and fix them, and if they do something wrong, or if something is out of line it’s on me,” Smithhart said. “Let’s say I was in charge of three people, it’s my responsibility to make sure that they’re perfect, from their head to their shoes. It’s my job to figure out how to fix it and help them, even if there’s something small I get the blame for it because they’re my responsibility.”

Along with the responsibilities, Smithhart enjoys shooting most. He is a member of the marksmanship team that focuses on precision shooting using air rifles. 

“Ever since I was a kid I’ve just really liked fire-arms,” Smithhart said. “It wasn’t anything in particular that got me into them, I just acquired the love for shooting. Shooting is such a calm sport, you just sit still and let your mind and body take over. It sounds like it would be cool or powerful but in reality, for me it’s very chill.” 

The training for JROTC, specifically the marksmanship team, is very hasty and thorough, with practices every day after school and expectations to be present for each of them. 

“We usually have leadership training for a particular team,” Smithhart said. “I’m on the air rifle team, so we shoot everyday, but if you’re on the drill team you would be drilling everyday, or the cyberpatriot team you’d be doing cyber stuff everyday. It’s basically just what you’re involved in and how much you actually care about it and want to put into it.”

Right now Smithhart’s marksmanship team is practicing for the upcoming state championship shooting competition. With help from his fellow qualified cadets and commanders, he hopes to place at state and learn some new skills from the experience. 

“We are going to state championships, and hopefully nationals after that,” Smithhart said. “Out of the entire country, we [are] rank[ed] fifth. I’m really thankful for my teammates, they treat me wonderfully and they’re always looking for something I can improve on. Without them, I don’t think I would have qualified.”

Though Smithhart still has a few years of high school left, he plans on continuing JROTC for the remainder of the time, he is planning to enlist in the military after he graduates.

“I have learned a lot from JROTC,” Smithhart said. “I’ve learned about specific jobs in the Navy and other branches of force. I’ve talked to a lot of recruits and a lot of people who are in the service and even the ones who have retired, and it helps to boost me into the military community. I absolutely want to join the military and go into either the Army or Airforce, but I’m leaning towards the Army because they have more marksmanship and that would fulfill my desire and passion to do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is anything in combat. I think I would really enjoy that.”