GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Junior ROTC teams from Ansbach and Vilseck will travel to Washington, D.C., in June after beating out thousands of other applicants to participate in two separate events, one an academic competition and the other a prestigious leadership symposium.

Four Ansbach cadets will go to George Mason University for the JROTC Academic Bowl final, while four members of the Vilseck JROTC will attend the George C. Marshall Leadership Symposium.

Col. Dennis Kirstein, the senior Army instructor with the Ansbach JROTC program, said his cadets beat out teams from 1,600 JROTC programs across the U.S. to take their place as one of 24 teams in the Academic Bowl final.

The cadets spent weeks studying and doing practice tests to prepare for two preliminary rounds of online exams, he said.

The students worked hard, he said.

He said the Academic Bowl final will be a live "head-to-head" event similar to a quiz show.

Ansbach JROTC cadet Sgt. Maj. Marie Cook, 16, said she studied subjects such as mathematics, biology and language to prepare for the test.

"It has definitely helped at school. This year I have a 4.0 grade [point] average — that’s all A’s," she said.

Maj. Michael Farley, Vilseck JROTC senior Army instructor, said his cadets also overcame 1,600 other JROTC programs to win selection for the symposium in an online contest. It will be one of 48 teams attending.

"They trained as if they were training for a sporting event," he said.

The Vilseck cadets spent long hours studying the JROTC leadership curriculum, Marshall’s leadership principles and current events, he said.

The four-day symposium involves more study of Marshall’s leadership principles and speeches by various military and civilian leaders. Teams must prepare their own presentation on Marshall’s principles, Farley said.

"It is about developing knowledge of leadership," he added.

Vilseck cadet 1st Sgt. John Lee, 17, said he didn’t know much about Marshall before he started studying about him two years ago as an alternate on another successful Vilseck JROTC team.

While he did not go to Washington that time, he did learn a lot about leadership, he said.

"Marshall was very strategic. He always thought things through and thought them out well," Lee said. "[Any decision] wasn’t just to benefit one side. It was to benefit the great majority of who he was dealing with."

Marshall’s greatest triumph was the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe and prevented a recurrence of World War II, he said, adding that the great statesman’s principles could just as easily be applied to smaller everyday leadership challenges.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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