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AFJROTC Reflects on Successful Year with Cadet/Program Accomplishments

JROTC students standing in formation

Higley Unified School District’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) is a specialized program that develops leaders and citizens of character that give back to their school and community.

Offered to both Williams Field and Higley High School students, the District’s AFJROTC program is known as one of the top programs in the state. This elective course, which is taught at the Higley High campus, opens doors to cadets and provides them with advanced skills and knowledge in aerospace science, leadership, and wellness/fitness. Enrolled cadets learn aviation history, survival, the science of flight, and space exploration. They also explore leadership's many facets, including communications, management, life skills, college and career readiness, ceremonies and traditions, organization, and personal and team discipline.

Col. David Vaughn and SMSgt Danny Alltop answered a few questions about the program and the program/cadets’ achievements in the 2021-2022 school year.

 

What have the cadets in HUSD's program been doing in 2021-2022? 

Volunteer Work:

The cadets as a whole have stayed busy throughout the year. Cadets focus on their course work and training but also spend time helping our local community:

  • More than 2,680 hours of community service and leadership development, participating in over 125 events. JROTC cadets volunteering
  • 1,580 direct service hours — cadets giving back and paying it forward (55% to school / 45% to the community).
  • 26 community service hours averaged per cadet enrolled in the program.
  • Volunteered for Feed the Children four times, provided support to 10 Christmas Tree Angels, and participated in the Veteran Food Drive in conjunction with Midwest Food Bank.
  • The Drill Team, which is seen as the public face of AFJROTC, provided color guards for all assemblies, football games, and many HUSD events. They were also available for community requests.
  • Cadets supported "Wreaths Across America" over Winter Break. Additionally, they performed daily school flag detail - honoring Veterans and our national emblem with dignity.
  • Four campus clean-up projects.
  • Cadets participated in various district events, including: Curriculum Night, the HOCO Carnival, Lunar New Year Celebration, the Art Festival, the SPED Carnival, and orchestrated an obstacle course for the Winter Sports assembly.

 

Drill Team Accomplishments:

Although the Drill Team does a lot of color guards, they do so much more. Drill is an academic elective and an AIA competitive team, earning the following honors:

  • Overall Grand Champion at the Desert Talon Regional Drill Meet in November 2021.
  • Four 1st Place finishes at the Gallegos Invitational Regional Drill Meet in March 2022.
  • Four State Champion 1st Place trophies at the Desert Classic meet in Mar 2022: Armed Exhibition, Armed Inspection, Varsity Color Guard, and overall Armed Sweepstakes.

 

What are a few notable accomplishments from this year?

  • Cadets and cadre met all Headquarters AFJROTC criteria, timelines, and community service hours to qualify for the Distinguished Unit Award (highest distinction available this year).JROTC cadets at Gilbert Historical Museum Gala
  • AFJROTC & Air Force Association Award, AZ State Winner (Top Junior AFJROTC Cadet in Arizona) – HHS Junior Abigail Cramer.
  • Sons of the American Revolution Enhanced Scholarship Award, AZ State Winner – HHS Junior Abigail Cramer.
  • Better Business Bureau/Salt River Project Ethical Cadet Scholarship – HHS Juniors Abigail Cramer and Cole Pierce.
  • East Valley Cadet of the Year – HHS Senior Peyton Pierce.
  • Town of Gilbert Cadet of the Year – HHS Senior Peyton Pierce.
  • Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Essay contest winner – HHS Senior Peyton Pierce.
  • AZ Girls State Representatives: WFHS Junior Abigail Adams, HHS Junior Abigail Cramer and HHS Junior Samara Myers.
  • Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Seminar Representatives – WFHS Sophomore Tyler Bubela and HHS Sophomore Andrew Sheehan. HHS Sophomore Annika Good is an alternate.
  • Joint Leadership & Academic Bowl (JLAB) Varsity Team set new school/program high scores in both their first and second rounds of competition.
  • Higley's AFJROTC program was one of four units selected from the 800+ across the country to participate in the headquarters' AFJROTC Accreditation process with Cognia. Cadets, cadre, cadet parents, and HHS Principal Alan Fields were part of an interview with the accreditation team from Cognia, providing a flavor and level of understanding of the AFJROTC curriculum and cadet education system.

What are the plans for this summer?

We are headed to the Grand Canyon area from May 30 until June 3 with 12 of our top cadets to participate in what we call, "Wilderness Leadership Development" – a cadet leadership course focused on survival skills, physically challenging hikes and wilderness activities, camp management, and leadership discussions. HUSD cadets join their peers from Basha and Hamilton High School's AFJROTC programs to add a layer of complexity to the camp by putting cadets in stressful and challenging situations with relative strangers.