The Franklin Heights Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) program has added another feather to their cap.
The program received a Chief of Naval Education and Training Distinguished Unit award with academic honors for the ninth successive year as well as a ranking as one of the top four programs in the NJROTC Area 3 region on April 24.
Area 3 consists of eight Midwestern states, including West Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.
The NJROTC has been in existence at Franklin Heights High School for over 40 years, since 1967, and this is the highest rank the program has won throughout that time.
In addition, the program was honored earlier in the year by the State of Ohio Reserve Officer Association League as the best NJROTC program in Ohio for the second year in a row.
Franklin Heights’ NJROTC program is the fourth oldest program in the country as well.
"The credit goes to the cadet staff, which planned and was actively involved in the many operations necessary to achieve this recognition," said Captain Tom Lennon, one of the instructors for the Franklin Heights NJROTC. "We’re really blessed that the program in this district is so strong."
Lennon said what sets the program apart is the community services the group performs, such as Operation Flag, in which Franklin Heights partnered with County Auditor Joe Testa and involves the NJROTC students keeping local veteran cemeteries clean.
The students also perform stadium cleanups after home games at the high school stadium, and they also clean the stadium at The Ohio State University after OSU football games played at home.
The NJROTC cadets also work with the Hershey Track and Field program each year – a kind of local mini-olympics for community groups that brings in kids.
Lennon also said NJROTC gives opportunities students would not have had otherwise, such as partnering with the Civilian Marksmanship Program, the Ohio National Guard and Ohio Naval Militia.
"[For instance] there’s competitive shooting. They get trained by Gary Anderson, a two-time Olympic gold medallist for marksmanship," said Lennon.
Cadet Commander Elizabeth Haering, the 2008 commanding officer for the Franklin Heights High School NJROTC, believes their team unity made all the difference in earning the awards.
"Whenever we do something, we always do it together. It’s always a group effort. We put a lot forward," said Haering.
Haering said she has been able to stay at the Florida Air Force and Naval bases four times altogether and even got to go on a refueling jet mission around the Louisiana area as a result of being in the NJROTC, but for her, the best part was the leadership opportunities.
"I went to a leadership academy for a week at a base in Chicago, and that was an experience for me, just being around kids who are trying to be leaders and trying to prove yourself out of all of them, out of all these great kids," said Haering.
Lennon said his advice for high school students trying to decide whether or not to join the NJROTC is to consider their future. "When you’re in high school, get involved in things. Find something that suits your desires. You’ll make friends and you’ll be a better person for it. There’s no military obligation, it’ll give you experiences you may not otherwise get and there are some benefits if you choose to go into military after," said Lennon.