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Jefferson High's Junior ROTC earns 2nd distinguished honor

July 23, 2004|by RYAN NICHOLSON/Staff correspondent

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - Jefferson High School's Air Force Junior ROTC has been included among the best programs in the nation for the second year in a row.

The program has been recognized by the U.S. Air Force with the Distinguished Unit Award, Master Sgt. Will Poe said.

Poe, the group's instructor, said only 10 percent of the 745 Air Force Junior ROTC programs in the nation achieve the Distinguished Unit Award. Poe said that earning the award speaks well of the hard work of the cadets, the support of school administrators and faculty, and of his fellow instructor, Maj. Charles Gray.

To receive the Distinguished Unit Award, the student cadets, instructors and school administrators work together developing goals to improve the school, the local community and the cadets themselves, Poe said.

"We identify goals at the beginning of the year and we turn those in at the end of the year," said Poe. "A board of Air Force officers evaluates the results in comparison to the goals and reviews the program administered by the instructors."

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Cadet goals include a 100 percent graduation rate for cadet seniors and increased cadet responsibility for the management of unit activities. The cadets participate in tutoring and organizing events and activities.

Cadet Lt. Col. Marisa Wilcom, 17, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., was active in the organization of a military ball.

"I directed and planned where it was going to be, looked over the food and contacted local business people," said Wilcom, who was the only student in West Virginia selected to attend the Secretary of the Air Force Honors Camps at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, this summer.

The weeklong camp offers students an all-expenses-paid chance to learn more about careers in the aviation industry.

The school and community goals focus on enhancing the reputation of the Air Force Junior ROTC program. The cadets work on improving their behavior and appearance, participate in graduation ceremonies and organize a homecoming bonfire, Poe said.

The cadets also support the Jefferson County Shoe and Coat Fund, visit area veterans hospitals and participate in flag ceremonies.

As a way to display the unit's Distinguished Unit recognition, Jefferson's cadets will receive ribbons to wear on their uniforms. The group also will receive a certificate and a streamer to attach to its Air Force flag.

Most importantly, Poe said, is the opportunity to offer better futures for its members.

"When you get a distinguished Unit Award you get an opportunity to nominate up to five of your students to one of the service academies."

In 2003, the program nominated Joanna Clark to all five academies.

"We were able to nominate her to the service academies and she was a very sharp young lady who ended up being accepted to all of them," said Poe.

Clark was accepted to the academies of the Merchant Marine, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and the Army. A few weeks ago, Clark entered the Naval Academy.

Poe said he is proud of his cadets and the program.

"At Jefferson High School, we've worked hard to build our program based on mutual respect, doing our best and having fun," he said.

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