'The cream of the crop'

Piñon's JROTC program comes back for blue star

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

PINON, Ariz., January 31, 2013

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(Courtesy photo)

Senior Officers for Pinon High's Eagle Battalion, from left to right, are Captain Joseph Elliot, Battalion Commander Megan Tom, S-1 Jasmine Secular, S-2 Brandon Tsosie, S-3 Liane Uy, S-4 Richard Caldwell, S-5 Eddelevenavin Yazzie, S-6 Shawnia Slim and Sgt. First Class James Cook. The battalion earned a blue star during their recent inspection, which is the second highest rank.

J ust one year after failing inspection, Piñon High's Eagle Battalion stepped up for this year's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps inspection and passed with a blue star, the second highest rank.

The inspection was conducted by the 5th Brigade Headquarters personnel from San Antonio, Texas. Inspections are done each year to determine a unit's national ranking.

According to the U.S. Army JROTC website, the purpose of an inspection is to "determine if the schools, cadet corps and instructors meet and maintain standards, and to identify and appropriately reward those that exceed program standards."

Battalion Commander Megan Tom, 16, said in order to be the best, which would mean earning the gold star, cadets need to drill and march in sync.

"That's where our main points come in from," she said. "Once you get it, it's pretty easy to learn, but that's what we try to teach the younger cadets."

The battalion is tested in 10 different areas.

One of those areas is curriculum knowledge.

JROTC Battalion S-5 (numbers indicate rank) Eddelevenavin Yazzie, 16, said aside from the marching, the curriculum knowledge, which consists of a questionnaire, plays a big role in the inspection process. It includes questions on the history of the U.S. and the U.S. flag among other subjects.

Looks count too, said JROTC Battalion S-6 Shawnia Slim, 16. Each cadet's uniform must be clean, pressed, aligned and in order.

Another area is cadet staff briefing.

Liane Uy, 15, who is an S-3, said points come from how well they are able to present their respective job duties. Uy's job is managing the training schedules for the battalion.

Other areas that are tested are staff briefing, in-ranks inspection, cadet attendance/participation, cadet supply room inspection, cadet records and administration, cadet training management and security, cadet public affairs and cadet historian, cadet drill and ceremony, and cadet color guard.

Clean and snappy

JROTC Battalion S-1 (administration) Jasmine Secular, 17, said each has their own duties that they must master and a work area, which is located inside one of the high school classrooms, that must stay neat.

Their paperwork and training schedules are also observed by the inspectors.

They also looked at staff pictures and told them they "lacked technology," so that is why they deducted points from that area, said Secular. Their photos did not have high resolution.

The highest any battalion can earn is 600 points. Piñon received 557 points, ranking them an Honor Unit and earning them the blue star. The lowest score they received was 35 out of 40 for cadet color guard, and the high score they received was 97 out of 100 for in-ranks inspection.

Tom said last year the JROTC didn't do well as a battalion so this year they were aiming for a higher score.

"It was our main goal from the beginning of the school year and we're almost there," she said, noting her battalion was only 19 points shy of earning the gold star.

Slim said knowing that their school failed at their inspection last year, she came in this year thinking, "We could do better. We basically just pushed our cadets to do better. For me it personally felt like we actually succeeded. We know that our school is good enough to compete with others."

Instructor Sgt. James Cook said, "Last year we didn't have the leadership and that's where it hurt us." So this year, leadership was the focus.

"The cadets learned very quickly, they pushed it and they knew how important the inspection was and they picked up the ball and did very well with it," said Cook. "That shows you the types of students that we have here. They can pick these things up and start learning the process and do the leadership.

"The inspectors came down here and they told us right from the very beginning that they did not expect what happened. They thought they were going to come down here and basically say, 'We are going to close the program,'" said Cook. "They walked out of here saying it was a complete 180 degree turn around. They really liked what they saw, and it was the cadets that did it."

'We will have that star'

"We got no doubt that in the future we will have that star," said Cook. "We just got to push it a little farther. Only three percent of the schools across the nation have that gold star. So it's a very, very hard thing for them to get. We know what to work on now."

The staff members agreed that next year preparing and planning will help them improve their chances.

"I wanted to be a part of JROTC for one reason, to gain more motivation," said Tom. "JROTC teaches you many skills like leadership, integrity, respect for others, motivation, selfless service, and courage. I knew from the beginning I probably could do this, and I could help others by joining this program."

"I decided I wanted to join it because it built my leadership and courage to go in front of a crowd," said Yazzie.

"This might my ticket out of the reservation," added Slim on why she stuck with JROTC. "It also taught me a lot more about myself, and who I am."

Recalling her first day with the JROTC, Uy said, "I was scared. I wasn't sure if I would survive. Throughout the year I found out that it was really interesting, and you learn so much and experience many things just being a leader."

"It showed me how I can become a leader," said JROTC Battalion S-4(supplies and logistics) Richard Caldwell Jr., 17. "Now I have the skills that a leader will have."

"That is the beauty of the military and JROTC, look at the variety of individuals we have," said Instructor Capt. Joseph Elliott as he pointed out all of his staff members. "All the different backgrounds, and skill sets.

"I am just so impressed and happy to be around young students like this," said Elliott. "They are the cream of the crop."

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