Not everything that seems a failure, is a failure

When I was in 10th grade, I joined a military program called MCJROTC (Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps). They provided us with uniforms and taught us how to be good citizens, which translated into self-improvement. We also had weekly Physical Training (PT) sessions. While most people disliked PT, I loved it. The program offered extracurricular activities after school and had a ranking system that closely resembled the real Marine Corps. We could earn awards and promotions by meeting the requirements and behaving well. The overall purpose of the program was to teach leadership. It provided opportunities to lead others through rankings and positions within the chain of command, but these opportunities were available only to those who truly wanted them.

After some time in the program, a girl approached me, suggesting that I would be a good fit for the Raider team. The Raider team was a group of MCJROTC members who competed in physical competitions against other schools’ Raider teams. These schools could belong to different JROTC programs from the Air Force, Navy, Army, or Marine Corps. The competitions consisted of 10 people, with some flexibility to change members between different events. The events included an obstacle course, rope bridge (where the team made a bridge from one tree to another and passed the whole team through it), a 5-kilometer run, tire flips, and much more.

In my 11th-grade year, I was invited to watch the team compete in their last competition. They were heading to the Raider Nationals, where they would compete against teams from all over the U.S. and different branches of the military. I accepted the invitation and went with them. Upon arrival, they noticed my good physical condition and offered me a spot to compete. Despite having no prior practice, I joined the competitions without any required previous training. By the end, our team placed 25th out of 40 teams, which wasn’t particularly exciting.

After that competition, I grew fond of the team and loved every second of the difficulties and challenges. I wanted to continue participating, but since it was the last competition of the year, only training remained. So, I began attending training sessions and spent my extra time on this. By the end of 11th grade, the team started practicing during the summer outside of school. I found someone who could take me to these practices, and I began showing up to every one.

At that point, Master Sergeant, our real Marine instructor and teacher, asked if I wanted to be the team captain for my 12th grade year. I was thrilled because I had always wanted that position, knowing it existed. However, I was unsure if I could fulfill the responsibilities well. I asked my female friend who had invited me to join the team. She told me she knew they would offer it to me and that I would do great. Time passed, and as the next year began, I became the Raider Team Captain.

As the captain, I was responsible for deciding our workouts, developing strategies, establishing routines, setting standards for everyone, and organizing who would compete. I had to make tough decisions, and the team’s responsibilities and failures were on my shoulders. It was a lot to handle, especially with school in the background. I was committed to getting our team into the top 5 at the Raider Nationals and was determined to do whatever it took to make that happen.

The first competition was tough. People questioned my leadership and choices. I didn’t know much about what was going on, and we moved without order or concrete plans. It was a total mess, and I had a pretty bad day. However, Master Sergeant came up to me and reassured me that it was okay. He said the first competition is the hardest for team leaders as they adapt to their roles. At that moment, he addressed the team in a firm manner, as you would expect from a military instructor speaking to subordinates who have made mistakes. He explained the importance of the chain of command and how the leader needs to be obeyed, even if people don’t like it. It’s not a democracy; there is a time to receive feedback and work together, but there is also a time to follow orders and be quiet.

With each competition, I learned more about what needed to happen: how we should behave, move, and train. Each piece of advice helped create a stronger, more disciplined, and efficient team. We began moving in formations everywhere and focused intensely on the small details. We trained hard and consistently, transforming from a team that had never won a trophy to one that started winning them. We began ranking in the top 5 in smaller competitions, making serious progress. Everyone was doing their very best.

Eventually, the final day arrived: the Raider Nationals, the event I had been preparing for a long time. This was the day I aimed to lead my team to a top 5 finish. Despite all our hard work and dedication, we didn’t make it into the top 5, or even the top 10. The next morning, the day the results and awards were announced, I woke up earlier than most to accompany Master Sergeant and get the results. It was just the two of us; only the other school instructors were there. When we received the results, I was devastated. We hadn’t placed in the top 5 in any of the competitions, finishing around 14th out of forty-something teams.

Returning to camp, I became very emotional and started crying. This competition was incredibly important to me because my high school had never been known for anything special. It was considered mediocre compared to many others. I dreamed of bringing a victory that would put our school on the map. Master Sergeant spoke to me and assured me that I had done a great job. He pointed out that our leadership had been the best among all the schools, many of which were larger, better funded, and had more years of experience.

To me at the time, not making the top 5 felt like my biggest failure. However, Master Sergeant emphasized that our lack of success wasn’t due to a lack of discipline or hard work, but rather because we didn’t have the physical strength and endurance of teams that had been competing for longer. I took that as a win. My high school years were over, and I was ready to move on to college and start a new phase in my life.

Since they have an Instagram account, I liked to keep up with what they were doing. I wondered, “How is my team without me? Did they maintain the concepts we had when I was there—all the new ways of doing things, discipline, and structure?” Suddenly, I started seeing them make significant progress in their results. They kept winning trophies in every competition. By the time they reached the Raider Nationals, to my biggest surprise, they secured 4th place in the Raider Team competition across the U.S. (Keep in mind these were the same individuals I led a year ago) and became the number one Marine Corps JROTC team in the U.S.

This was amazing to me. It showed that all the training we did had paid off. Even though I was no longer part of the team, the results were there. What I initially saw as a failure turned out to be one of my greatest victories.

6 responses to “Not everything that seems a failure, is a failure”

  1. fasilu Avatar

    wow, your story is truly inspiring Diego. keep sharing more like this

    1. Diego Sarmiento Avatar

      Thanks! will share more in the future!

  2. Zuha Avatar

    WOW ! diegoo soo inspiringgg . i loved this !!

  3. hjay Avatar

    congo team diego school

  4. Hala Zaw Avatar
    Hala Zaw

    That’s so inspiring , I loved every part of this amazing story , keep going 🔥

  5. Hala Zaw Avatar
    Hala Zaw


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