Oct 29, 2019

Teen Scene

By Lori Draz and Christopher Halmi

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 Christopher Halmi, the Battalion Commanding Officer, Cadet Lieutenant Commander, the highest ranking officer in the Colts Neck High School Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Course (NJROTC) program. Christopher has an amazing family. His father is a retired Colts Neck police officer. Christopher and his three brothers have all been part of the Colts Neck High School NJROTC program. His two older brothers are currently serving in the Army and Air Force. His younger brother is a freshman in the NJROTC program, and Christopher plans on enrolling in an Army ROTC program in college with the goal of becoming an Army Officer.

Christopher’s story is one of the value of teamwork. With a family of four boys involved in various activities, teamwork has always been important. He has played competitive lacrosse since second grade on travel teams out of Colts Neck and Princeton, as well as various showcase teams. As a three-year varsity lacrosse player, Christopher applied the lessons of the NJROTC program and focused on being a good teammate and leadership development. He was named captain of the boys’ lacrosse team as a junior and will serve in the same position during the upcoming season.


In a speech given by Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. David Bellavia to the Army Advance Camp Cadets this past summer, Bellavia spoke about what leadership means to him and his belief that “individual greatness leads to team greatness.” As I watched his speech, I thought about the lessons I learned as a cadet in the NJROTC program at Colts Neck High School and how the program has helped to prepare me for the path I wish to pursue as an Army Officer.

Described as a “four-year leadership and character development program,” the Naval Junior ROTC program was that and so much more for me. From the rigorous application process, to the wide range of opportunities and experiences available to all cadets, I have been challenged to push past my comfort zone and believe in myself even when the odds were against me. As a cadet, I’ve developed a somewhat contrary perspective of what it means to be a good teammate and an appreciation of the importance of teamwork both in the unit and in my other activities.

Before the start of my freshman year, I attended the NJROTC’s Basic Leadership Training (BLT) where incoming cadets assess their physical abilities, experience their first taste of drill and understand the expectations required. For me, it was also an important lesson in being a good teammate. I’ve played lacrosse since I was in second grade. I presumed BLT would be a breeze. I was wrong. The older cadets challenged me to push beyond my own limits. When I thought I hit my max, they motivated me to try harder and did not let me give up. I came out of BLT with greater confidence in what I could achieve and a promise to be a good teammate. I learned that being a good teammate was not just about being qualified; it was also about pushing yourself to be the best. In striving to be my best, I would make my team and unit better. It seems like a simple idea, but it’s not always so, especially when easier choices are available.

With the confidence and eagerness to be a good teammate, I joined the drill, the physical fitness and orienteering teams. I participated in numerous community service events and joined the varsity boys’ lacrosse team. These activities required commitment, balance and the ability to continually challenge myself, especially performing at the national level. To be honest, it was a struggle, but the rewards outweighed the sacrifices. I’ve traveled to Pensacola, Florida, twice to compete at the NJROTC National Academic, Athletic and Drill Championship, traveled to Georgia, Florida and California to compete in the NJROTC National Orienteering Championship and placed 10th in the nation individually my freshman year.

Representing the unit at these competitions – as well as at Color Guard presentations for the NFL, MLB and local parades and accompanying an Air Force refueling flight over the Atlantic – may be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but no matter how memorable these may be, I am most grateful for the various leadership opportunities available in the NJROTC program. According to the saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” To be a good teammate, I felt it was imperative to take on different leadership opportunities, enforce a strong team culture, lead by example, communicate goals, influence through character and effort rather than authority, and assist the cadets around me.

My hands-on experiences helped develop leadership skills and demonstrate my leadership potential. Working through the ranks, I was appointed the Battalion Commanding Officer (CO) for the 2019-20 year. In this role, I am directly responsible to the Senior Naval Science Instructor for all unit operations, activities and personnel. I am humbled and honored in the trust placed in me to lead the unit.

The lessons and skills of the NJROTC program will serve me well in the Army ROTC and beyond, among them the value of an individual’s contribution to the team’s success and that to be a great teammate you also need the confidence and belief in yourself to lead. According to Navy Seal Brent Gleeson, “Without a team, there can be no real leadership.”