May 08, 2020

Local Teen Talks About her Future and Dedication to the Armed Forces

By Lori Draz and Ella Bohen

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is 18-year-old Ella Bohen, a senior at Colts Neck High School and her NJROTC Battalion’s Executive Officer. This month, we honor the brave men and women of the armed forces for their dedication and character, some lessons learned from military training. Not everyone is attracted to a career in the military, but practicing and respecting the codes, ethics, disciplines and lessons of military training is invaluable. Here is Ella’s story.

“What are your plans after graduation?” As a high school senior, I have been asked this question too many times to count. However, I am also a cadet in the Colts Neck High School Naval JROTC Academy so I’m also usually asked, “Are you interested in continuing with the military?”

I only recently had an answer to the first question. Even still, I have only decided on which university I will be attending in the fall (Northeastern University). I was admitted for my major, but I’m still wondering if I really want to pursue something else. The second question, though, I always had an answer for: No, I am not interested in continuing with the military after graduation. I have a deep respect for the military, but it was never the life I wanted to pursue. I did, however, admire the lessons of discipline, teamwork and self-control that the military teaches.

I applied to the NJROTC program as an eighth grader. Pursuing a military career is not the only thing the JROTC teaches. Its mission is not to be a method of recruitment, but rather an opportunity to shape young minds and characters. I witnessed my brother go through the program. I saw him grow to be more disciplined, mature and responsible. I wanted that same experience for myself.

I remember my Basic Leadership Training (which we call BLT for short) in August 2016. All incoming freshmen, referred to as plebes during this week, learn the basic ins and outs of the program. I remember walking into the school on Monday greeted by senior cadets in uniform. I remember being intimidated. By the end of the week, I had made friends with not only my fellow plebes, but also with the upperclassmen cadets. By Friday, we graduated from plebes to cadets, and I made it my goal to help and succeed within our unit.

At the end of my sophomore year, I was chosen to attend the Naval JROTC Area Four Leadership Academy and Sail Training. This is a two-week program conducted at Newport Naval Base in Rhode Island, where cadets from Area Four (the Northeast US) come to experience a glimpse of military life. We were under the supervision of instructors from other units in our area, who also happen to be retired military personnel. My platoon’s instructor was a Senior Chief Petty Officer, a high and respected enlisted rank. Toward the end of our time in Newport, he met with all the cadets he was responsible for to get to know each of us better. If you guessed, he did indeed ask the second question I mentioned before: “Are you interested in continuing with the military?” When I told him I wasn’t, he didn’t seem particularly surprised, but I’m sure he wondered why I would attend such a program if it was not what I saw for my future. I explained to him that I did it for the experience.

If it were up to me, every cadet in Naval JROTC should learn the lessons that I did as a NJROTC cadet. Honestly, I think every high school student deserves to learn those lessons. I learned to be both a respected and effective leader as well as a disciplined and effective follower. I learned how to efficiently communicate with my superiors and subordinates, in a way that would form and build relationships. I learned the self-control it takes to stand at attention for an unknown amount of time, as still as a statue, ignoring every desire to move your body. I learned the commitment it takes to be so dedicated to a program for four years.

I achieved the goals of success I set for myself my senior year. I was named our Battalion’s Executive Officer, or second-in-command, for the 2019-20 school year. I was directly responsible for the unit’s operations and to ensure that all the departments within our unit ran smoothly and efficiently. I had to report back to my superiors, my Commanding Officer and instructors. I used every lesson learned to shape myself into the kind of leader that I wanted to be. I value discipline, integrity and relationships, and I use these principles with my interactions with the people around me. I aimed to be approachable to both my fellow officers and the underclassmen in the program. I wanted to be able to give guidance to those younger than me, and I wanted my input to matter to those in positions higher than me.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, it is important to determine how you want to present yourself. Identify your values and let those shape you into the person you want to be. Even though I knew the military was not part of my post-graduation plans, I truly admired the qualities of the individuals who do choose this path. These men and women are strong-willed, confident and disciplined. They command and deserve respect, and that is why I chose to follow the path of the Colts Neck High School Naval JROTC. On Memorial Day this year, my thoughts go out to those men and women who have given their lives to serve our country, as I hope yours do as well.