Last fall, Bolivar High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC squadron earned its best ever unit inspection, receiving the highest grade attainable and exceeding 22 areas of a 54-point evaluation by inspectors from Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
The designation topped the squadron’s results three years ago, when it exceeded standard in 17 areas.
This spring, that success, plus other accomplishments and time spent serving the community, helped garner the program its first Distinguished Unit Award with Merit.
According to a news release from U.S. JROTC headquarters, the honor recognizes Air Force JROTC units that have “performed well above and beyond normal expectations, and that have distinguished themselves through outstanding service to their school and community while meeting the Air Force JROTC citizen development mission for America.”
According to the release, BHS was one of 79 units to receive the award this year.
The Air Force JROTC program is in close to 890 high schools across the U.S. and at selected schools in Europe, in the Pacific and in Puerto Rico, the release stated.
“The Distinguished Unit with Merit Award is limited to the very best of the best of our nation’s 890 Air Force JROTC units,” Col. Stephen Sanders, headquarters director, said in a letter to R-1 superintendent Tony Berry. “The Distinguished Unit with Merit Award recognizes the personal growth and accomplishments of the cadets, the contributions of the instructors as mentors of the cadets, and the support of the school and community.”
BHS senior and cadet squadron commander Tyler McClellan said he’d done the math, and the award puts his crew in good company.
“Only the top 9% of JROTC units in the nation received this award,” he said.
Ret. Maj. Roger Robinson, a senior aerospace instructor at Bolivar who also leads the ROTC program, said the award was the culmination of all that went into the unit inspection last fall, along with each cadet averaging over 10 hours of community service.
The squadron totaled 840 hours of community service, Robinson said.
“That’s a very important part of it,” Robinson said.
So is, he said, the squadron’s other activities outside of class.
“What the Air Force wants to know is, ‘Are you doing something besides having the cadets sit in a classroom?’” he said. “Because who wants that? They want life experience. They want the comradery from going out and doing things.”
Robinson said the leadership displayed by the cadets is also crucial.
McClellan credited each member of the squadron for their hard work and dedication.
Last fall’s Air Force inspection judged the squadron in 54 areas for compliance with USAF standards, McClellan said.
The inspections are conducted every three years.
“We crushed our extensive community service goals, and ultimately exceeded standards on our big unit inspection,” he said. “This award recognizes the personal growth and accomplishments of cadets, and the unit as a whole, and is a huge honor to receive.”
The Liberators also competed well at ROTC meets last fall, he added.
Two Liberator teams were among the top finishers at the Ozark Raider Fitness Crucible at Ozark High School in September, according to previous BH-FP coverage.
The meet consisted of a series of varying challenges, including a 5K, other running and weight-carrying events and an obstacle course, to be competed by five-person teams.
For instance, Robinson said, one event involved moving a pile of 32 cinder blocks. Another required moving a 100-pound stretcher.
“Our competitive teams did very, very well this year,” McClellan said. “Our drill team took podium finishes at nearly every drill meet we attended, and our raider teams had a very successful season.”
According to the news release, the objectives of the Air Force JROTC program are to “educate and train high school cadets in citizenship and life skills, promote community service, instill responsibility, character and self-discipline through character education and to provide instruction in air and space fundamentals.”