By Dave Ongie, News Editor
Science Hill High School’s Army JROTC battalion stands at attention during a ceremony last week. The battalion was honored by Science Hill principal Todd Barnett after earning the title ‘Honor Unit with Distinction,’ the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a JROTC battalion. PHOTOS BY DAVE ONGIE
Every three to five years, experts from Fort Knox in Kentucky arrive in Johnson City to inspect the Army JROTC program at Science Hill.
Their inspection is thorough, and it takes most of the school year for Science Hill’s battalion to prepare for the careful examination of their academic excellence, curriculum compliance, community involvement, competition accomplishment and much more.
Science Hill’s program was due to be examined this year, and when the inspection was complete, the battalion earned the national Cadet Command title of “Honor Unit with Distinction,” the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a battalion. Science Hill scored 98 out of a possible 100 points during the inspection.
Last Wednesday, Science Hill Principal Todd Barnett presented each cadet with a Star of Excellence in honor of the accomplishment. Army Col. Mike Johnson (Ret.), who oversees the program along with Master Sergeant Jaremiah Ross, said the honor was well-deserved.
“They are looking at everything you can possibly imagine. They are overturning every rock that there is,” he said. “To be an Honor Unit with Distinction, what it means is that they do everything exceedingly well, from competition to how they run the organization. The unique part about the JROTC program is the cadets run the program.”
Cadet Michael Poole said planning was a huge key to the battalion’s success during the recent inspection.
“One of the things we are taught is to try to fire at the target as far away as you can, so we started planning for this at the very beginning of the year,”
Cadet James Graybeal, a senior, was a freshman last time Science Hill’s battalion was inspected. He said this honor is fulfilling because he has a healthier respect for what goes into preparing for the detailed examination.
“As a senior, I realized there was so much more planning that I wouldn’t have thought as a freshman,” Graybeal said. “As a senior now looking back, it definitely means a lot more to me now than it did then.”
Freshman Cadet Sarah Mohammed found herself in the same shoes Graybeal was in three years ago, a freshman staring down a grueling inspection that required all members of the battalion to be prepared. She said the leadership Graybeal, Poole and the other upperclassmen offered made the process go smoothly.
“There’s a lot of preparation,” she said. “There is a lot of running around, but the leaders did a good job of slowing everything down for us.”
For Johnson, the inspection offered validation of what he already knew – the cadets in his program are exceptional.
“I tell anybody that will listen that I’ve got the best job in town,” Johnson said. “And if somebody’s got a better job, than indeed God has blessed them.”