“That’s every year since the squadron first stood up in 2002,” said Lt. Col. Lindy Williams, retired, the senior aerospace science instructor for South’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. “This year, ‘With Merit’ is added to the designation, signifying exceptional performance during this year’s official headquarters inspection.”
Williams said the award recognizes the personal growth and accomplishments of the cadets, contributions of the instructors as mentors and the support of the school and local community. “Across the globe, JROTC units are doing great things in their respective communities, but this recognition truly represents the best of the 892 Air Force programs worldwide. To gain this recognition, cadets and instructors focus on community service, cadet development and adherence to standards,” Williams said.
Community service is a cornerstone of JROTC. The South cadets excel at one service in particular. That is presenting the U.S. flag before various community, school and sporting events.
“Called ‘color guards,’ cadets performing these programs practice teamwork, leadership and national pride each time they present,” Williams said. “Color guard highlights from this year include a Cincinnati Reds game, the West Ridge High School groundbreaking, the Bristol Veterans Day Parade and the upcoming graduation ceremonies for Sullivan South and Sullivan Central students. Other community service events this year included honoring veterans by performing a Veterans Day program at the school and helping with Wreaths Across America. Cadets also completed several school beautification projects and participated in pre-race activities at Bristol Motor Speedway.”
“It is important to note that these JROTC programs are not recruiting tools,” Williams said. “Cadets are under no obligation to enter the military. Instead, the mission of Air Force JROTC is to develop citizens of character, dedicated to serving their nation and community. One way South cadets accomplish this is by working on their organizational skills.
“For the past four years, they have planned and hosted two annual events: the Rebels Corps Zombie Run (a 5K community fun run) and the Ferguson Bulldog Challenge (regional JROTC fitness competition). Cadet actions for these events include advertising, team invitations, course setup, registration, scoring and cleanup. By practicing teamwork and communication during these events, cadets become better prepared to take on similar roles once they enter the workplace,” Williams said.
He said this program helps cadets pay attention to important details. Each week, cadets wear the uniform of JROTC. They are responsible for the cleanliness, accuracy, and professional image of their uniform. Grooming and overall behavior standards are practiced as well.
“Early in the school year, the cadets develop squadron goals to give them direction and focus. These goals become an emphasis for their weekly and monthly activities. It truly becomes a team effort,” Williams said.
Led by squadron commanders Seth Brooks and Isaiah Pendleton, and squadron officers Caroline Clark, Kaitlin Dean, Colt Nichols and Austin Brashear, the cadets at the headquarters inspection in April earned an Exceeds Standards; the highest rating possible. This year’s Drill Team earned 29 trophies at four regional competitions. Led by team commander Kerina Cusson and critical team members Sebastian Sawyer, Tristen Moore and Sierra Browder, the South Drill Team had one of the best years on record. The annual awards banquet was attended by civic leaders, school board members and veterans from around the region. That evening, during a brief ceremony, Cadet Jonathan Almen took over as squadron commander, charged with leading the organization into the new school year.