19 Apr Centennial High School’s distinguished NJROTC unit is a team effort

For 12 years, Centennial High School Navy JROTC has placed in the top five of the NJROTC National Academic, Athletic and Drill Championship. The distinguished unit repeated its success this year, placing third overall in the nation.

From April 7-8, the 46 cadets traveled to Florida to compete in military drill, physical fitness and academic competitions. The unit’s efforts earned it third place in the nation among 583 schools bringing home eight trophies and six individual awards.

Behind the coordination, execution and precision of the perennial powerhouse is retired Petty Officer Gail Johnson, Centennial’s Naval Science instructor who served 20 years as a communications systems technician.

Johnson served in several capacities for the Navy, including being a drill instructor where her passion for drill started.

The Wisconsin transplant found herself in Las Vegas after researching a slew of cities to settle in. She started teaching at Clark High School before transferring to help open Centennial High School in 2001, where she has stayed since.

The Naval Science instructor is one of the longest-serving female instructors in the history of NJROTC with 23 years of instruction. Dedication is part of her character. And according to Johnson, a person’s character speaks volumes about who they are and provides them with a strong foundation for their life.

“Drill teaches a lot of discipline,” explains Johnson. “It’s demanding but I love the precision. The more the passion is there, the more the students will respect that.”

To get to the national competition, Centennial beat out schools from the district level to advance to state and regional competitions. To prepare for the national competition, Centennial’s unit practiced three hours a day on weekdays, and six hours each Saturday since January.

The students worked hard since September under the tutelage of Johnson, retired Master Chief Jim Lyle and retired Senior Chief Thomas Borders. And all their hard work paid off once again to keep Centennial at the top. The school won first place back in 2007 and has consistently been at the top in the nation.

“Looking at this program, we have come a long way. We’ve been at nationals for 20 years and I love how the students realize that they are representing Nevada,” Johnson said. “I want to thank our administration and Principal Trent Day for their belief and support.”