• Mary Harrison

NJROTC receives Unit Achievement award at annual inspection

NJROTC cadets enter the New Gym at the beginning of Tuesday's Pass-in-Review ceremony.

Cairo High School’s NJROTC unit was reviewed by their Area Manager on the morning of Tuesday, December 8, 2020, and was conferred the Unit Achievement award for the first time in a decade. This ranks the Syrupmaker NJROTC program in the top 50% of all NJROTC units in the state of Georgia and the northeast corner of Florida.

In a Wednesday email, CHS Senior Naval Science Instructor (SNSI) Commander Alex Baker called the Area Manager’s Inspection (AMI) a “great success” and said it was “well received” by Area-12 Manager Commander Rustie Hibbard. The Navy would not allow Commander Hibbard to travel to Cairo for the inspection due to COVID-19 precautions; instead, Commander Hibbard reviewed the day's events via Zoom video calls, and the final Pass-in-Review ceremony was filmed and sent to Commander Hibbard for grading.

Commander Baker examines a cadet's Naval knowledge while Commander Hibbard watches on from the iPad.

The AMI consisted of three phases: a personnel inspection; a cadet brief, where Commanding Officer Alexis Gray (Senior) presented a brief to Commander Hibbard and he spoke to the entire unit; and the Pass-in-Review ceremony, where awards from the personnel inspection were conferred and cadets paraded in military fashion.

The personnel inspection began at 8:15 a.m. in the Vocational Building’s ROTC Complex. Commander Baker graded each cadet’s appearance and Navy knowledge while Commander Hibbard, who typically would conduct the inspection himself, watched via Zoom. According to Commander Baker, the cadets who scored in the top ten percent received Bravo Zulu (Navy code for “Well done”) medals during the Pass-in-Review ceremony.

At 9 a.m., the unit moved to the Tiered Auditorium of the College and Career Center for Commanding Officer Alexis Gray (Senior) to present her brief and for Commander Hibbard to speak to cadets. Before signing off, he presented the unit with a Unit Achievement award, recognizing them as one of the top 30 of the 60 Area 12 units. “You guys have faced tremendous challenges there,” Commander Hibbard remarked. “You did a great job.”

According to CO Gray, earning the Unit Achievement award was one of the unit's goals for this school year. “It makes me really proud because we’ve worked really hard and overcome a lot,” Alexis continued.

“We got quarantined due to COVID… we’ve been waiting for a new building. Just to be able to say that this is the first year we’ve been in there, the first year we’re back on our feet, and we got Unit Achievement—it makes me feel really amazing.”

Commander Baker says this was the first time Syrupmaker NJROTC received an area distinction since he became SNSI in the fall of 2010: “It’s something we work toward every year… For Commander Hibbard to recognize us with [Unit Achievement] is a tremendous honor and totally unexpected.”

The Pass-in-Review ceremony, narrated by Sophomore cadet and Public Relations Officer Jodi Lopez, began at 10:30 a.m. in the New Gym. Each of the three platoons in CHS NJROTC marched in to a tune played by the Syrupmaker band. Executive Officer Kalari Watkins (Junior) called the cadets to order with the Adjutant’s Call and the Color Guard led attendees in the national anthem. Next, the unit’s Exhibition Drill Team performed.

Exhibition Drill Team finished performance

Executing duties that Commander Hibbard would have performed had he been allowed to visit, Commander Baker recognized third platoon, commanded by Sophomore cadet Aidan Green, as the Honor Platoon from that morning’s Personnel Inspection, meaning they earned the highest average grade.

Commander Baker also conferred Bravo Zulu medals to the following cadets for their outstanding uniform inspections: Freshmen Addysen Curtis and Erika Wynne; Sophomores Chevy Bodor, Claire Clark, Elliott Cross, and Tiffani Dannels; and Juniors Angel Brown-Guyton and Gavin Hawthorne.

Finally, all military veterans in attendance were recognized, and the Syrupmaker NJROTC platoons performed the Pass-in-Review aspect of the ceremony, marching past and saluting Commander Baker, who was representing Commander Hibbard, and out of the building.

Some unit officers still had duties to perform for Commander Hibbard, including an Inventory Check and a Records Check. Following the entire inspection, Commander Hibbard de-briefed Principal Chris Lokey and Commander Baker on the results. Over the afternoon announcements, Mr. Lokey pronounced the cadets' performance, "very, very impressive."

Cairo High School’s NJROTC unit will be the final AMI Commander Hibbard conducts before retiring next week; Commander Jonathan Shaw, who is replacing Commander Hibbard as the Area-12 Manager, observed the inspection via Zoom.

Because the Area-12 Manager can only vet each ROTC program every other year, for a total of 30 inspections per year, the last time Commander Hibbard visited CHS was in 2018. When the Area Manager is not available, Commander Baker is responsible for finding another officer to complete the Annual Military Inspection and Cadet Brief; last year Captain Albert Schuette, former SNSI at Lee County High School, inspected Cairo’s cadets.

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