WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange High School Jr. Air Force ROTC celebrated several major successes at the annual Military Formal and Awards Ceremony, held June 1 at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange.
More than 200 cadets, family members and friends were on hand to recognize outstanding cadets and graduating seniors, and to enjoy several milestones achieved by the Jr. AFROTC program in just four short years.
The event opened with the touching POW/MIA Ceremony, leaving an empty table for all members of the military still missing in action. Welcomes and toasts were next, followed by the infamous mixing of “The Grog,” a foul liquid creation that is imbibed by those committing infractions of the rules of order.
The awards ceremony began after dinner and cadets were recognized in several categories. The Air Force Association Award was awarded to Abby Rosu, the Daedalian Award to Gabby Petrucelli, the American Legion Scholastic Award to Alina Chant, the American Legion General Military Excellence Award to Andrew Ramirez, the Daughters of the American Revolution Award to Madison Mitchell, the American Veterans Award to Michaels Monroy, the Reserves Officer Association Award to Chisom Chima, the Military Order of the World Wars Award to Aamore Richards, the Military Officers Association of America Award to Michael Giovine, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Award to Vanessa Lettman, the National Sojourners Award to Zharia Bynes, the Sons of the American Revolution Award to Colin Morgan, the Scottish Rite Americanism Award to Rachel Scott, the Military Order of the Purple Heart Award to Sayeed Bennett, the Air Force Sergeant Association Award to Ayana Tapper, the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War Award to Gio Trinidad, the Tuskegee Airmen Award to Terrance Toussaint and Angel Cordero, the Enlisted Association Award to Gordon Schneider, the Celebrate Freedom Foundation Award to Andrew Amoyaw, the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 Award to Dayana Yepez, and the Air Commando Association Award to Wesley Rideau-winds and Jadon Boyce.
The Jr. AFROTC program at West Orange High School has been phenomenally successful and has grown in number each year. This year’s complement of cadets numbered 106; the number for 2017-18 is already capped at 166. The program has become a mainstay at the high school and at township military ceremonies.
Graduating seniors Chase Garguilo, Andrei Rosu, Matthew Stern, Iveth Gonzales and Danielle Arrabito proudly received shadowboxes, a long-standing tradition that highlights the recipient’s military career.
As if these accolades were not enough, Principal Hayden Moore stepped to the podium to announce that both retired USAF Major Joseph Marchesini and Chief Ricardo Thurston had been awarded with Outstanding Instructor Awards by the Air Force. This award is only given to 10 percent of all instructors worldwide annually. Once the Air Force has that top 10 percent selected, they pick one officer and one enlisted instructor for each of the six geographical regions as Region Outstanding Instructors of the year. Principal Moore then announced Marchesini had been named an Outstanding Instructor for Region II and is now considered one of the top 12 Jr. AFROTC instructors worldwide.
The West Orange Jr. ROTC had their first official inspection this year, receiving the highest possible rating of Distinguished Unit with Merit. It is the highest award an AFJROTC unit can receive and West Orange High School was the only unit in the state of New Jersey to receive it this year. In fact, only 78 of 900 units worldwide received the distinction in 2017.
To be considered for this award a unit must receive an “Exceeds Standards” rating on their inspection, average at least 12 community service hours per enrolled cadet and have met all Air Force deadlines and requirements. All cadets who come back to ROTC next year will wear the coveted Distinguished Unit with Merit ribbon on their uniform. Of particular significance, the service academies are required to set aside slots every year for cadets from JROTC units that have won this award. This will give WOHS cadets an advantage should they wish to attend a military academy.
The event ended with the ceremonial retirement of this year’s Cadet Lt. Col.and Squadron Commander Iveth Gonzales and appointment of 2017-18 Commander Abby Rosu.
As the ceremony concluded and the colors were retired, cadets enjoyed some fun on the dance floor thanks to DJ Justin Davis.