Distinguished Unit: PRC’s NJROTC’s 2016 AMI ceremony

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 9, 2016

distinguished: Friday, PRC’s NJROTC hosted their 2016 Annual Military and Drill Demonstration.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

distinguished: Friday, PRC’s NJROTC hosted their 2016 Annual Military and Drill Demonstration.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

Friday, Pearl River Central High School’s NJROTC cadets hosted their 2016 Annual Military Inspection and Drill Demonstration at the school’s football field.
Every two years the program is evaluated, and this year Commander Merlin Ladner, Area 8 NJROTIC manager, evaluated the cadets along with their instructors, NJROTC Chief Ron Hazlewood and Senior Naval Science Instructor Col. Todd Ryder.
“I’m looking for uniformity and making sure everything is correct on their uniforms,” Ladner said. “I spend about 30 seconds with each cadet and ask questions to help them relax. I also ask them knowledge questions on chain of command and other things about their unit. By the time I get to 0100, I have a good idea of the health of their unit and what I may need to talk to instructors or administration about.”
During the ceremony, cadets demonstrated how to honor distinguished visitors boarding a U.S. Navy ship, a Line of Battle, the Color Guard, the proper execution of an unarmed drill regulation sequence, the proper method of folding a flag and the Old Glory Commemoration, which is a ceremonial passing of the folded flag from the most junior to the most senior cadet.
Cadets also demonstrated their unit’s armed exhibition drill routine and a squad armed exhibition drill.
“What we saw today was the result of many hours of practice and a school system whose support allowed them to be together,” Ladner said. “It takes a lot of time and confidence. It was entirely cadet-run and they all knew their places.”
Ladner said PRC has a distinguished unit and only about 30 percent of the 49 schools he visits attain that honor. Ladner evaluates units in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and two counties in Florida.
“A few years ago, they were most improved and now they’re a distinguished unit,” Ladner said. “The parental and faculty support is also there for these cadets. I heard one teacher refer to the cadets as ‘hers.’ That shows that the faculty is taking pride and ownership in their cadets. This unit is above and beyond, really solid.”
Ladner also inspects the instructors’ program, requirements, and makes sure they are maintaining the government-supplied equipment and using it correctly. The cadets participate in academics three days a week while the other two days involve drill and fitness activities, he said.
“It’s not just an elective,” Ladner said. “They are learning all about self-leadership. There’s a hierarchy of leadership out there and that’s what we look forward to from freshman to senior year. Instructors use history and tradition to facilitate the cadet’s self-discipline and leadership abilities, which also helps them in their other classes.”
The Navy also allows Ladner to select five cadets for full scholarships and those names are also sent to a national board for consideration for a national scholarship.
Ryder said his cadets’ performance was outstanding and better than the one before. Each year, they add a layer of complexity to the ceremony. This year, promotion awards were part of the field ceremony.
“The level they are at now is the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Ryder said. “So much of that has to do with our current seniors. We are at a level of significant depth of good leaders who will carry forth the high standards set by our current senior class.”
This year’s senior class includes Lt. Junior Grade Brandon Gill and Lt. Commander Jakub Hill.
Gill plans to attend the University of Mississippi, where he will join their NJROTC program and, after that, attend officer training school.
Friday, Gill was responsible for seating the officials and ensuring the people on the field stayed hydrated.
During his four years, Gill said he has learned leadership skills and how to handle tasks from the miniscule to the large.
“I know how to take a job and run with it now,” Gill said. “I’ve learned how to become a leader and further better myself as a person. I didn’t know myself before I started the program, but it became my second home and made me who I am today.”
Hill said he was recently contacted by the Naval Academy to attend prep school in Newport, Rhode Island. Friday, he acted as an escort and also monitored people on the field, should one of the cadets faint.
At first, Hill said he didn’t want to join the NJRTOC program. Growing up a “Navy brat”, Hill said he had preconceived notions, but soon changed his mind.
“NJROTC taught me to put judgment aside and trust people to get the job done,” he said.
Hill said during his freshman year, the program was in danger of being eliminated.
“We worked to ensure that we receive distinguished unit,” Hill said. “With my help and the help of the other cadets, we preserved and accomplished this big goal. Our unit works together as a team, not just as singular cadets.”

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