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Excellence among junior leaders

Lakes High School AJROTC program earns gold star rating

Lt. Col. Allen E. Patty mentors Lakes High School AJROTC students, including cadet platoon Leader Tiana Cohen (right), on drill and ceremony practices. Photo credit: Christina Butcher

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Earlier this month in Lakewood, the students of Lakes High School's Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AJROTC) Lancer Battalion refused to settle for anything less than perfect as they went through a U.S. Army Cadet Command JROTC Program for Accreditation (JPA) inspection. Under the guidance of 1st. Sgt. Raul Munoz and Lt. Col. Allen E. Patty, the Lancer Battalion students earned the highest award possible - the Honor Unit with Distinction (HUD) gold star rating.

"This is a major accomplishment," said AJROTC Cadet Capt. Amber Hamil, who helped guide her peers through the inspection process along with her command-team counterpart, Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Jasmin Salladay. Hamil's father, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Hamil, will retire from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) this year after 31 years of service.

"I feel like this gold star really awards us for all we've done for our community and our battalion as a whole," Salladay said. "We achieved a lot, and we put a lot of effort and work into earning this award. This award shows our dedication to the program."

Salladay's father, 1st Sgt. Donald Salladay, will retire from the 555th Engineering Brigade at JBLM later this year.

Salladay played a vital role in preparing her cadet troops for the JPU inspection, which takes place every three years. During the inspection, students are evaluated on briefings, in-ranks and color guard inspections, and implementation of a continuous improvement program and service learning project. This year, the students elected to conduct environmental clean-up at nearby Lake Louis, followed by participating in the "Read Across America" program at a local elementary school.

"We've focused on getting students to be attentive to their grades and learn what causes good academic performance in addition to the leadership performance elements," Patty explained.

In keeping with this year's theme of "academic performance," AJROTC students implemented Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) testing and use of student planners as part of their continuous improvement program. They were ecstatic not only with the results of the JPA inspection but also with the progress they've made as individuals along the way.

"AJROTC is supposed to provide motivation, direction and leadership," Salladay shared. "I've become a better leader and person because of this program."

True to the sentiment, AJROTC students cheered on their classmate, Cadet Corp. Tyrese Diaz, as he admitted his career plans following high school graduation.

"I want to become an astronaut," he said.

Diaz's father is a chief warrant officer at a special forces unit on JBLM.

"The main thing that keeps me in this program is the family vibe that we have," Hamil said. "Being in this program has pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it's still a safe place where I can make mistakes."

Besides the close-knit relationships students build while participating in AJROTC, they also cultivate strong leadership qualities.

"Instead of just learning about how to lead," said Cadet Capt. Nicholas Boggs, "we actually get chances to be put in roles where we lead events, like helping cadets rappel or going through an obstacle course. It's an experience like no other."

Boggs' father, Staff Sgt. Vilmund Boggs, served four years in the Air Force prior to moving his family to the JBLM area.

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