Military ball unmasked


Every year, Etowah High School’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) plans an exceptional number of events. The Military Ball is the most attended event, and this is a formal dance that is seen as a tradition for all military branches.  

Pictured above is the 2023 Military Ball flyer for cadets (students who are in the JROTC program) to buy tickets for themselves and their dates.


“I did not feel anything [about Military Ball] until the day before when I realized that I was going to be honoring the seniors and veterans during the color guard and honor guard presentation. When I was doing the color guard, I started to cry. I was looking at my brother in his eyes, and it made me realize that he was proud of me,” Sierra Cook, sophomore, said. 

Instructors Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Bergey and Technical Sergeant Ciarra Malto have made it their mission to run Etowah’s JROTC class separate from their instructors’ overview and physical training days. Every Thursday, cadets have “flight time” run by the students to work on specific tasks assigned to their jobs. Photographed above are instructors Stephen Bergey and Ciarra Malto.

“’Flight time’ afforded both Fernandez and Swift the time needed to plan the event.  They also had meetings outside of ‘flight time,’ meeting with the Sequoyah planners after school and visiting Timbers on Etowah three weeks prior to the event to do a walk through,  What ‘flight time’ also gave us was the opportunity for the planners (Fernandez and Swift) to receive guidance on how to plan this large event with the instructors (myself and TSgt Malto),” Stephen Bergey said. 

In the photograph from left to right: the Officer in charge of Special Teams is planning for the dance, Alex Swift, junior, and the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, Kyle Fernandez, senior, who is photographed while working on preparations for the night.

“Considering Military Ball is right around the corner. Me and Fernandez are stressed beyond our minds. We are watching everything come together and fall into place to carry out this big vision of ours. As the hours count down, we start to feel the dream being achieved,” Swift said. 

This year, Etowah paired up with Sequoyah High School to host a joint Military Ball. Both JROTCs felt as though, without COVID-19, they could gather without any limitation and that expenses would not be as high.  

“[As a non JROTC student], I had an absolute blast at the dance, it was planned perfectly, and going back to a dance after COVID-19 for me was very exciting because it brought back the feeling of being free to have fun with friends without worrying about having to stay far apart,” Ashlynn Presnell, freshman, said. 

Etowah’s JROTC held auditions for those who wanted to speak at the 2023 Military Ball. They also held practices to rehearse the script for the event. Pictured above is Cadet Kendrick Brice, junior, the chosen spokesperson for the night, speaking.

“[The practices] helped me build the memorization and the confidence to get on the stage because I knew what I had to say and do when,” Brice said. 

Even though the Military Ball is an official military tradition, it teaches correct etiquette and therefore has become a JROTC tradition. The cadets from both Sequoyah and Etowah danced the night away at their 2nd Military Ball since COVID-19. Pictured above is a group of cadets socializing together without masks.

“[As a non JROTC student], the [Military Ball] was well planned out and beautifully decorated. I enjoyed the night with my boyfriend and met new people. Being at a dance after COVID-19 did not bother me, though it did not feel like anything was unsanitary or dangerous,” Lily Dauer, junior, said. 

JROTC plans to continue holding this formal tradition as now they can do so without limitations.