As the early morning sun beams down on the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, cadets assemble around the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) building at lower campus. While many other students may just be waking up or still snoozing their alarms, UH Army ROTC cadets, like MS3 cadet James Takagi, have already been up for hours participating in training. Takagi is a third year student at the Hawai‘i Pacific University, majoring in diplomacy and military studies, and he is starting his first semester in the UH Army ROTC program. Although new to the program, Takagi is already making strides, most recently with a perfect 40/40 score on the M4A1 ALT-C Qualification Range event at ROTC’s Sept. 28 “Superlab” event.

A day in the life

A typical day for Takagi begins bright and early at 4 a.m., when he starts getting ready. Waking up at this early hour is essential, as it takes him 30 to 45 minutes to drive in to Mānoa from Hawai‘i Kai. Throughout the morning, Takagi makes sure to check his phone frequently, as he often gets message notifications from the app “Discord,” which the cadets use to communicate.

“[My phone] is always buzzing, so to me checking my phone every hour is pretty crucial so we know what to expect the next day or any kind of information we needed for the day,” Takagi said.

After waking up early and checking his phone, Takagi makes sure that his assignments are done for class that day. In addition to physical training (PT), which takes place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for about an hour, ROTC cadets must attend classes that cover topics such as land navigation. On Thursdays, Takagi and his fellow cadets go live on foot and with packs and uniform to Diamond Head to practice different operations and land navigation training. 

Juggling being a full time student at HPU and the rigorous ROTC program at UH Mānoa is no small feat. Adding on to this busy schedule, Takagi dedicates one weekend each month to the Hawaii Army National Guard. However, Takagi continues to make his schedule work to support each commitment. 

“It is overwhelming, especially being brand new to this program, but it can be done,” Takagi said. “It’s a bit of a challenge but I'm able to put it into my schedule and make it work.”

Success at Superlab

On Sept. 28, ROTC held an all-day training event called “Superlab” at the Schofield Barracks. Army ROTC cadets arrived at Schofield Barracks as early as 4 a.m., with the event finishing at 11 a.m. The training event included a land navigation event, a basic rifle marksmanship (BRM) event and an obstacle course.

“I prepared for Superlab by going over the information that they provided us,” Takagi said. “Actually learning the map, land navigation, going over certain technical and strategic planning, and implementing that into real life scenarios; preparation to me was vital.”

Takagi earned the best overall score at the M4A1 ALT-C Qualification range event (the BRM event), in which cadets were each issued a rifle and 40 rounds. Cadets had to shoot their rifle at the target in kneeling, prone, prone supported and unsupported positions. 

“Those are positions where you just have to know where to shoot, because in an attack environment, you never know which position you have to be in, so you have to be ready for all positions,” Takagi said.

Takagi managed to get a perfect score of 40/40 at this event. 

“I was shocked, you know. I knew I was up there, right? But I didn’t know I had a 40 out of 40. So to me it was shocking. I was happy, it made my day,” Takagi remarked.

What’s to come?

Working towards a goal to graduate with a degree in diplomacy and military studies and commission as a second lieutenant in 2021, Takagi still has a couple years to sharpen his skills in ROTC. 

To future ROTC students, Takagi suggests prioritizing PT training. 

“Stay physically fit because it is demanding in physical fitness,” Takagi said. “Especially if you’re trying to become a commission officer, you need to lead by the front.”

Even with more training and school ahead of him, Takagi has no plans for leaving the military any time soon.

“After college and commissioning, I would like to get ready to go to my next unit and take charge and lead the way and stay in the military and army for as long as I can,” Takagi said. “I love it, this is what I live for, it keeps me going.”