Augusta Liddic/The Daily TimesThe Shiprock High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC competes in the color guard event at the Scorpion Invitational on Saturday,
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times The Shiprock High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC competes in the color guard event at the Scorpion Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (Augusta Liddic)
FARMINGTON — Behind the scenes joking quickly ended Saturday as more than 200 high school students participating in the 16th Annual Scorpion Invitational put their smiles aside and got down to business.

The students came from 18 schools scattered throughout the Southwest to the Farmington High School event on Friday and Saturday.

The event included a variety of skill set tests for students, all of whom are members of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps. JROTC is a nationwide in-school program that teaches students to become both good citizens and leaders in their community.

"It's not just learning the steps and the uniform. It's the confidence," said Sgt. Jonathan Hubbard, a member of a New Mexico National Guard transportation company.

Hubbard and other National Guard members were judging the students, who performed tasks that included armed drill team, unarmed drill team, color guard for both males and females, color guard mixed, physical fitness, obstacle course, and air rifle.

The students received scores based on whether they were in step and whether they looked and acted professional.

"We're looking for perfection," Hubbard said.

However, events such as the invitational are only one part of JROTC.

While the students spend much time practicing their skills during the school year, they also spend a lot of time volunteering in the community, said Sgt. Van Coleman, JROTC instructor for Farmington High School.

"It's a program to help youth become better citizens," Coleman said.


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Many of the students said they have noticed changes in their own behavior, though they still get nervous when they attend events such as the invitational.

"They try to make you laugh," said 15-year-old Tyler Monta-o, a Piedra Vista High School freshman.

The event is expected to be held in future years as well. It is the largest JROTC event in the Southwest, aside from state-organized events.