Waiting outside the auditorium at Baltimore County's Milford Mill Academy, Quaneeshia Minick shuffled around the hallway, expending her last bit of nervous energy.
Minutes later on stage, Quaneeshia stood perfectly still, about an arm's length away from 14 other Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets, as three military judges graded her posture, her political knowledge and her all-black uniform.
"I was so nervous, my hands were sweating," the 16-year-old sophomore at Woodlawn High School said later.
The uniform inspection was one of seven events held yesterday at the county's first JROTC drill competition. About 150 students, representing the 10 JROTC programs in the county, competed in events ranging from color guard drills to choreographed routines with dummy rifles.
"We just felt it was time to bring the programs together," said retired Army Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Johnson, who oversees the Baltimore County school system's JROTC programs, most of which are 3 years old.
Milford Mill Academy's Marine unit, host of the event, won the overall competition.
During the inspections, Army Pvt. Greg Matteson, Air Force Airman David Sundquist and Marine Cpl. Sean Bullman examined every inch of the cadets' uniforms while peppering them with questions.
"I like shined shoes," said Matteson, who would sometimes lift the bottom of a cadet's trouser leg to take a closer look.
But the real test, Bullman said, was to see how they responded under pressure. The judges studied facial expressions and temperament when cadets couldn't answer questions.
"The main thing we're looking for is that they conduct themselves as military personnel," Bullman said.
Kevin Bailey, 16, a junior at Randallstown High School, said he wasn't too rattled by the rapid-fire questions about such things as the ribbon alignment on his uniform and military history.
"I think I did well in that competition," Kevin said.
Bill Short, the adult commander of Woodlawn's JROTC, said the programs are meant to give students direction in life -- which he said has paid off in the classroom for some of his 115 JROTC cadets.
"The primary purpose of this program is to make the kids better human beings, better citizens," Short said. "We're not trying to recruit them for the military."
Michael Knott, 19, a Woodlawn senior, said that before joining his school's Navy JROTC program, he was failing many of his classes. He repeated 10th grade twice.
Now the cadet ensign, who is commander of the school's armed drill team, is an eight-time honor roll student.
"The program taught me about responsibility," Knott said. "Before, I didn't care how I did in school; now it's important to me."
Pub Date: 1/31/99