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Teen Scene

By Lori Draz and Morgan Spenceley

This month’s author is Morgan Spenceley, an 18-year-old senior at Colts Neck High School and Command Master Chief in the CNROTC. Sometimes there are things deep inside you that you were never aware of. Morgan never considered herself a military person or a leader, but she has become both. Morgan listened to her inner voice and put in the work; now she is deservingly proud of what she is becoming. She plans on continuing to follow her military dreams by taking part in the ROTC program at Villanova for one year with the hopes of attending the Naval Academy the following fall. Here is Morgan’s story.

My dad graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1998. Though he served his time in the military, it was not something he talked about regularly nor was it a lifestyle he pushed onto my sister or me. Because of this, I never saw the military as part of my future. I knew practically nothing about the pressure, requirements or discipline, and I didn’t think I was the type for that kind of profession. However, this mindset changed in the summer of 2018. My family attended the Naval Academy for the class of 1998’s 20th reunion. The moment I stepped onto the campus, I knew that was where I was meant to be. No matter how hard it was or how many tries it took, this was where I would end up. It was as if something inside me had suddenly been ignited, and there would be no more questions about my future; this was it! 

Now, having made the decision of what I would be working toward, I had absolutely no idea how to do it. I began my research and found Colts Neck NJROTC program’s website. I read every word and saw how JROTC could prepare me. It was a great opportunity to gain the necessary skills and determine if the military was the life I wanted. As we always say, JROTC is not the military, but it does give you a sense of what it could be. More importantly, JROTC is about instilling leadership in young minds and teaching them how to be productive members of society. 

Throughout my years in this program, I experienced incredible leadership and been given the opportunity to be a leader myself. It began with the summer leadership training that preceded my freshman year. This is where I made my first contact with the type of leader I wanted to one day become. I will be forever thankful to my platoon commander, the student in charge of a small group of incoming freshmen. She taught me what a successful leader looks like. Instead of ordering us around and trying to scare us into listening, she made us want to make her proud. It never felt like she put herself above us, even though she was older and teaching us the way of the program. She always made us feel like a true team and that she would help us the entire way. I wanted nothing more than to impress her, to show her that I was capable of living up to expectations. A good leader brings that out. Fear can often be seen as a commanding force when it comes to leadership, but pride can be so much more powerful than fear, and it makes a team far more cohesive.

I did my best to emulate this leadership in my time as a cadet. Over time, I was given many opportunities to show the improvement of my skills. Whether it was as drill commander, physical training captain or as the unit’s Command Master Chief, I have always tried to be a person my peers want to make proud. I want to be someone they are happy with and trust enough to follow. I have found that it is not about how much I desire something or think my team can achieve, it is about how well I can make them believe in their capabilities. My leadership skills have been tested time and time again, most commonly by being the bearer of bad news or a mediator. Learning how to deal with others, whether I like them or not, and dealing with them in a respectful and unbiased manner has been a pivotal part of my growth. A critical part of leadership is having a sense of understanding for your colleagues regardless of personal feelings. They need to feel heard if they are to trust you and being able to deliver disappointing or difficult news while still being sympathetic and supportive can make all the difference in the relationship between a follower and leader. It is an important skill you develop over repeated interactions with others.

Leadership is a critical part of the military, and I needed to learn exactly how to hone my abilities. I have learned leadership is so much more than I knew it to be. It’s not just taking charge and issuing orders. Leadership is a connection between a person, their team and a shared goal. It is a constant flow of communication between parties and showing equal effort to motivate others. I am grateful to have learned this from Colts Neck’s NJROTC. It’s knowledge I will take with me far into my future. Whether I become a Navy officer or embark on a different path, these are priceless lessons that I have had the privilege of experiencing firsthand.

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