Franklin Heights ROTC gets top rankings

The Navy Junior Reserve Office Training Corps unit at Franklin Heights High School has been chosen the best ROTC unit in the state – for the second consecutive year.

“I was taken aback,” said Capt. G.R. (Tom) Lennon, USN (ret), who serves as senior Naval science instructor for the school’s program.

It’s unusual for a unit to receive the honor in consecutive years, Lennon explained, noting that the Reserve Officers Association League generally gives it to a different unit each year.

The ROAL has presented this award in Ohio for about the last eight years, Lennon said.

During the selection process, each entry is stripped of school identification to prevent prejudice, according to Lennon.

“There are twenty-some judges who look at the entry and we finished one point ahead of the second-place school,” he said.

He said he didn’t know who else was in competition, although he did his part to get other schools to enter.

“I sent information to the other units to encourage them to enter,” he said. “I don’t know if they did and I don’t know how they came out.”

Ohio has 18 Navy Junior ROTC units and well over 50 junior ROTC units affiliated with all branches of the military.

Grove City and Central Crossing High Schools have Navy ROTC units and Westland High School has an Air Force ROTC unit.

To be considered for the award, the units are judged on their achievements in the community, in the military and in the classroom.

The report that Lennon sent in noted that Franklin Heights’ unit, the fourth oldest NJROTC unit in the nation, has 137 cadets out of a school population of 1,243.

The unit has been recognized by the Commander Naval Education and Training, their military headquarters, as a “Distinguished Unit” for the last eight years and is the only Ohio NJROTC school to have earned the honor consecutively.

The focus of the Franklin Heights program is on community service, military drill meets, academic awareness and having fun, Lennon wrote in the application.

Cadets have been on field trips to Camp Perry, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Camp Mary Orton-Leadership Challenge, the Naval Reserve Center in Columbus and a five-day trip to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.

In the classroom, 47 of the cadets, or 37 percent of the enrollment, achieved honor roll status during the 2006-07 academic year. Two cadets received NROTC scholarships “and are attending universities that otherwise would have been beyond their families’ ability to support were it not for these scholarships.”

One of the cadets participated in Buckeye Girls State last summer.

In June, the program hosted its third Basic Leadership Training program at Camp Perry for 160 cadets from 21 schools in five states.

In the community, the cadets have partnered with Franklin County Auditor Joe Testa in his Operation Flag project and provided nearly 200 hours in helping renovate historic veterans’ cemeteries.

Lennon and associate instructor SKC John Torres, USN (ret) have each been recognized for two consecutive years with the South-Western City School’s “Pillar of Excellence” award for outstanding service.

Lennon had asked that the monetary award be put toward travel expenses for the cadets who are going on the extended weekend field trip to a military base over Presidents’ Day Weekend.

“We use government air and stay in military housing which keeps costs to a minimum,” he wrote in the application. “However, these trips normally cost approximately $125 per cadet. This award would allow me to take a student who might otherwise not be able to afford the trip and give them a lifetime experience.

“These trips are for many the first time they’ve ever flown, been out of the state of Ohio and seen an ocean,” he wrote.

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