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There were cheers and a few tears as Mooseheart’s Naval Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (NJROTC) received a new company commander in Aderinsola (Doyin) Akeju. There was also a sense of gratitude for the year’s work by outgoing company commander Amanda Jones.
One of Mooseheart’s seniors, Jones handed the ceremonial sword of command to Akeju, one of the school’s juniors, in a tradition-laden Change of Command ceremony. Akeju will lead Mooseheart’s company through the 2019-20 school year.
The name of the new company commander is always a tightly-kept secret, though Akeju said she had a feeling her name would be the one called by U.S. Navy Warrant Officer (Ret.) Rick Smith, Mooseheart’s NJROTC lead officer.
“I’ve always had the certainty and the feeling that this was going to happen, ever since eighth grade. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long,” Akeju said.
Akeju came to Mooseheart in 2013, when she was a sixth grader. A conversation with U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. (Ret) Ruben Hinton helped set her sights on NJROTC leadership. NJROTC education is mandatory for all the Mooseheart High School students and Hinton administers the program with Smith.
“(Hinton) came up to me after the Change of Command when I was in eighth grade and told me that the C.O. could be me in four and a half years. That gave me confidence, that he thought I could accomplish this.”
Akeju has had time to set some goals for her year as company commander and she was already eager to begin her year in command.
“I have so much to do. I want there to be more order and more respect and for people to relax about the program. This uniform that we get to wear every Wednesday isn’t a punishment. It’s a privilege,” Akeju said.
Smith said Akeju explained some of her thought process about the NJROTC program during her interview after she submitted her application for the company commander’s position.
“She said that she understands that the program is mandatory and not everyone wants to be a part of it. She said she wants to raise the bar and convince some to be committed, to look sharp in their uniforms and to get everyone involved in the unit,” Smith said.
Jones said the calendar year in command moved with incredible speed. She graduates with Mooseheart’s Class of 2019 on June 1.
“I literally remember taking the sword (in 2018) and being two times as nervous as I was today. When I handed the sword to Doyin, my thought was that I trust her with this. She’s going to do great,” Jones said.
Jones will attend the University of Illinois Springfield this fall, does not plan a military career but said her four years in NJROTC were transformative.
“It’s made me who I am today. It’s taught me that I had leadership qualities and allowed me to be a leader,” Jones said.