Working together, the upperclassmen establish the unit's six goals for the new year. The precise objectives vary from year to year but always follow the same formula: two cadet goals, two school goals and two community goals.
Those targets will drive much of the unit's plans for the remainder of the year.
"We look at what we did last year and what we accomplished and didn't accomplish," said New Albany senior and cadet Lt. Col. Marian Evans. "We figure out what can be challenging but also can be accomplished."
The JROTC program is a federal initiative sponsored by the Armed Forces at high schools across the nation. New Albany's program is affiliated with the Air Force.
The students meet every day and study a curriculum that includes principles of flight, space, history, drill and ceremony and leadership education. They also perform color guard drill routines at various community events and school competitions.
The unit has several cases filled with trophies and also has earned much respect throughout the county and region with groups often asking them to perform at community events.
Instructor Maj. Kenneth Moore said much of its success begins with the students' goal-setting process.
"If it is their goal, they will buy into it, and they will go out and do it," Moore said. "They have been successful in achieving these goals in the past."
Moore said the junior and senior cadets discuss the goals as a large group and spend the first two months of school establishing them.
"That is our main focus for the beginning of the year," Evans said.
This year's goals include academic standards, reaching certain fitness marks, retaining a large number of eligible cadets and participating in school-sponsored events, community service projects and environmental ventures.
"They research last year's academic averages and physical fitness marks and try to determine what they can realistically achieve," Moore said.
In chasing these targets, the cadets will push each other to achieve more academically and in their fitness competitions. They will send surveys to underclassmen to determine how to better increase retention. They will also stretch themselves to participate in events they may not otherwise have tried.
"One of our core values is excellence in all we do," said cadet Capt. Zak Johnson, a junior at New Albany High. "We try to make the goals achievable but also challenging because we want to be the best we can in all we do."
The cadets maintain a garden and a recycling project, participate in a park cleanup and adopt two miles of Highway 15. They collect canned goods and host school events like "Mix it Up," in which NAHS students are randomly assigned different tables in the school's cafeteria to encourage them to meet others. They present colors at football games and participate in community events like Frog-A-Nanny and Pumpkin Patch.
"What impresses me the most is not only the goal setting, but just the behavior of the kids," said fellow instructor Mst. Sgt. Willie Paine.
New Albany's AFJROTC will be spending much time marking off goals this week as the unit participates in multiple Veterans Day events.
It was scheduled to be at an event in Ecru on Saturday. It will be at West Union on Wednesday and will participate in three events on Veterans Day: at the Tallahatchie River Park, at East Union and at New Albany Elementary.
Performing drills for veterans carries a special meaning for the unit's members.
"This is the most important event to us all year because it is respecting the military," Evans said.
Said Moore: "It is a way for us to show appreciation to the veterans and the sacrifices they made to our country."
And when the week is done, they will be much closer to their target of participating in 20 community events.