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RHS JROTC named an Honor Unit

The Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) battalion at Russellville High School has only been in existence since the 2009-2010 school year but the group is already drawing attention after receiving an outstanding score on a recent inspection.
According to student officers in the group, the RHS JROTC, which is sponsored by the United States Army, recently underwent a Command Formal Inspection (CFI), which is a mandated inspection that occurs with each JROTC battalion every three years in order to measure the unit’s performance.
The RHS JROTC received the rating of Honor Unit, which means they scored in the 90th percentile or above on all total aspects of the inspection.
“This was a great accomplishment for our students for them to receive such a high score on their very first inspection,” said Sgt. 1st Class Louvina Gross, who is the Army instructor for the program.
“We are proud of what they have accomplished so far and we will use the feedback we received to improve on the areas where the program was lacking.”
RHS junior Max McCalpin, who serves as the Cadet Battalion S3/Training Officer Cadet Captain, said the inspection took around five hours and the inspection team from Redstone Arsenal checked both the administrative and operational aspects of the RHS JROTC program.
“We have officers within our program who are responsible for different things, such as paperwork, records, supplies, uniforms and training schedules,” McCalpin said.
“The inspection team wanted to see our records, our calendars, our events and other things from the past three years and make sure we have been keeping up with everything properly and doing things the way they’re supposed to be done.
“They also want to make sure we have knowledge of the medals and ribbons we have on our uniforms and that we know what each one means and what it stands for.”
Cadet Captain Brittany Epnett, who serves as the Commander of Cadets, said the inspection team also checked to make sure the students in the program were able to give the correct commands as well as receive and execute those commands.
“They basically want to see what all we have been taught and what all we have retained and learned in the past three years,” Epnett said.
“They check for cleanliness, education, uniforms and they observe our drill team and our color guard to make sure we are doing all the correct movements.”
McCalpin said the inspection was tense since it was their first time to go through the process and they weren’t sure what to expect.
“When we found out we had scored so high, we were sort of in shock at first because we weren’t expecting it,” McCalpin said.
“But we were very excited and proud of the accomplishment.”
McCalpin, who will be the upcoming Cadet Battalion Executive Officer for the 2013-2014 school year, said the outstanding score, however, would not be a reason for the unit to become complacent.
“Our score means we have done a great job but we also need to maintain those standards and continue to do well and to even improve,” McCalpin said.
“We know what things were counted off on during the inspection and we will work hard to do those things better so the unit can score even higher next time.”
Gross, who will have been with the ROTC for 16 years when she retires, said the high score was a reflection on the students and the type of hard work, dedication and pride they learn while being part of the RHS JROTC.
“Many people have the misconception that if their child is in JROTC then they have to join the army or it is a precursor to joining the army, and that simply isn’t the case,” Gross said.
“Our mission is to motivate these students to become better citizens. We’re not here to put their child into the military.
“JROTC is a program that offers training on a wide-range of life skills and topics that is intended to make students better citizens.
“We focus of self-discipline, hygiene, exercise, self-confidence, academics and leadership development. We encourage the students in their studies and I have personally seen students’ grades jump from getting F’s to getting B’s.
“I have also seen many students blossom as part of this program and come out of their shell. They begin to open up and discover things that interest them and that make them want to set goals.”
Gross said the program is also instrumental in keeping many students in school who might have otherwise dropped out.
“JROTC can give students a place to excel and a place to belong that they might not have had before,” Gross said.
“Sometimes all a student needs is that extra boost of support and that makes all the difference.”
McCalpin, who has been part of the RHS JROTC for three years, said he is thankful for the organization and what it has offered him.
“I was a very reserved person who was most likely to sit in the back of the room and try to go unnoticed when I was in middle school,” McCalpin said.
“Since being in JROTC, I have enjoyed the opportunities for leadership I have been given and now I happily volunteer for the drill competitions and I love being part of a team.”
Epnett agreed JROTC has been beneficial for her.
“JROTC has given me courage and self-confidence I didn’t have before,” she said. “This is my second year and I have loved being part of this organization. It has taught me a lot.”
Cadet CSM Ashley Figueroa serves as the Cadet Battalion Commnad Sergeant Major and will serve as the Cadet Battalion Commander for the 2013-2014 school year.
She said she’s looking forward to another year in JROTC and all it has to offer.
“This experience has definitely given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Figueroa said.
“I’ve been able to develop my leadership skills and that will help me in my future. This is a great program that any student could benefit from and I hope we have even more students sign up for this next school year.”
Gross said the program currently has over 40 students but she and Lt. Col. Norman Lier, who is the program’s senior army instructor, would like to see those numbers grow.
“This is a great program that has grown each year since I’ve been here,” Gross said.
“We hope more students show an interest in the program and see what all JROTC has to offer.”