North Edgecombe JROTC cadets, from left, Maj. Kaylah Thorne, Capt. Derrick Downing, Lt. Col.  Ja'Quarius Battle and Command Sgt. Maj. Qa'lexus Taylor won honors at the Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge Camp at Fort A.P. Hill in Bowling Green, Va.

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North Edgecombe JROTC cadets, from left, Maj. Kaylah Thorne, Capt. Derrick Downing, Lt. Col. Ja'Quarius Battle and Command Sgt. Maj. Qa'lexus Taylor won honors at the Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge Camp at Fort A.P. Hill in Bowling Green, Va.

North Edgecombe JROTC cadets excel at leadership challenge

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North Edgecombe High School JROTC is known for producing excellent cadet leaders, and this year proved to be no exception.

For the past eight years, North Edgecombe JROTC has trained cadets to achieve and excel when given the opportunity to do so.

At the Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge Camp at Fort A.P. Hill in Bowling Green, Va., four Warrior cadets continued the success. More than 700 cadets from five states and 28 high schools participated in the annual Summer Leadership Challenge.

Cadet Maj. Kaylah Thorne, Cadet Capt. Derrick Downing, Cadet Lt. Col. Ja’Quarius Battle and Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Qa’lexus Taylor represented North Edgecombe at the camp.

“The camp is where all cadets get to do three things: develop and tone their leadership skills, demonstrate the skills they have already developed, and build their confidence and competence in leadership. The end result is cadets become better students, leaders, and better citizens,” said Maj. Melvin Davis, senior army instructor at North Edgecombe High School JROTC.

The Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge places cadets in different leadership positions as they successfully accomplish numerous tasks in difficult circumstances and situations. Up at 5 a.m. each day, the cadets train and compete in Academic Challenge, Land Navigation and Map Reading, Confidence and Obstacle Courses, First Aid Training, Leadership Reaction Course Skills, Ceremonial Drill, Athletic Skills Events, Physical Fitness, Ropes and Knot Tying, Drown Proofing and rappeling from a 70-foot tower.

Thorne, a rising senior attending for the second year, was the winner of the first-ever Master Cadet Honor Award. This award is given to the best overall cadets who reach mastery in all 15 categories.

“Having the opportunity to go to camp is an amazing feeling,” Thorne said. “Then to cap it off with winning this award is just great. It means I stood out above all my peers before and during camp, and the instructors saw something in me. I’m glad they did, and I’m glad I won. I only wish my mom and grandma could have been there to see me get the award, cause I missed them while at camp.”

She is planning to compete for a U.S. Military Academy at West Point scholarship in the upcoming school year. She is the daughter of Rhonda Thorne and granddaughter of Mary Smith.

Battle was the winner of a Distinguished Honor Cadet Award for achieving the highest rating in his company out of 159 other cadets.

“Being able to go to camp this year meant a lot to me – I feel that I had improved in my leadership and this award confirms that for me,” Battle said. “Winning Distinguished Cadet first place makes me feel proud and ready for the upcoming school year. I worked hard this year, and the hard work paid off. I know my parents are really going to be proud of me.”

He plans to join the U.S. Army after graduation and go on to become an Army officer after college. He is the son of Bonita Battle and Leroy Moss.

When you look at Taylor you see the gleam and the glow in her face, Davis said, and she carries herself confidently as she walks.

Less than 5 feet tall, she is tough for her size, she said with a smile,

“This accomplishment rewards my hard work and dedication and is so overwhelming,” Taylor said. “It means I achieved all the standards and excelled at them. The (standards) tested me to the max – everything from teamwork, obstacle courses, the rappel tower, different leadership positions and getting up early, going to bed late. Wow, what a week. This has overall helped my confidence in moving to be a better leader. I am glad for this opportunity and ready for my final year in high school.”

Taylor”s plans are to compete for a four-year ROTC scholarship and attend East Carolina University in pursuit of a nurse practitioner career. She is the daughter of Pricilla Charles.

Downing was in for quite a surprise. As a first year cadet, it seems nearly impossible to make up the ground which his classmates had journeyed across. But to his surprise and his instructors, he achieved a great feat. His drill squad took first place in the Drill Competition out of 48 squads.

“I first had to compete against everyone in my squad totaling 12 cadets,” Downing said. “After that we had to march and practice, over and over again. Every free minute – which weren’t many – we had to march and practice. This award tells me that all that marching paid off. To win the best squad out of 48 wasn’t easy, but to stand here today is a great feeling. To just get to go to camp show I had leadership potential, others didn’t have. Winning means a lot. It means I went above and beyond the call of duty and it paid off.

“My parents strongly uphold the quote about being the leader and not the follower. I know they will be surprised and pleased. I can surely say that without my parents I wouldn’t be the leader that I am today.”

Downing also plans to compete for a four-year ROTC scholarship, attend Campbell University and pursue nursing. He is the son of Martha Jones and Lonnie Hendricks.