By Michael J. ARVIZU
For many of the cadets who make up the CA882 Air Force Junior ROTC squadron at Crescenta Valley High School, the annual awards banquet is the event they look forward to the most.
As the school year wanes, the banquet affords members of the cadet corps an opportunity to be recognized for their hard work during the previous year and reflect on the activities they have performed.
This year’s banquet was held Saturday at Clark Magnet High School.
“What we get out of this banquet is that we learn about being adults and learn to act like more of a unit together,” said Crescenta Valley High School ROTC Cadet Tech Sgt. Marissa Zavala.
Thirty-three awards – the most national awards given to deserving cadets in the program’s 26-year history at Crescenta Valley High – representing 17 national organizations were handed out, including awards sponsored by the American Legion and Daughters of the American Revolution, among other veterans’ organizations, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. David Worley, Crescenta Valley High School ROTC senior aerospace science instructor.
Cadet of the Year and Outstanding Cadet of the Year awards were also presented.
“This is the one time of the year that we give them a pat on the back and say ‘good job,’” Worley said. “We, as the teachers, select who we think is most worthy of [the awards], and then we get them presented. It recognizes outstanding achievement. It means everything to them.”
Worley is weary of the popular misconception that ROTC is a recruiting device used by the Air Force whose members only spend time undergoing physical training and drill instruction. Such activities only comprise about a quarter of the program, Worley said; the rest is spent in the classroom.
The awards banquet, Worley said, is an example of the activities cadets can perform and be recognized for in other areas of ROTC, such as leadership, academics, character development and community service, activities that “are greater than themselves,” Worley said.
“Our parents get to see what we’ve achieved,” said Cadet Airman Mollie Jones. Saturday’s ROTC awards banquet was the first such event for the cadet.
The highlight of the night came when four cadets from the program’s elite honor guard were recognized for garnering a perfect score – 100 out of 100 – in the four-man junior ROTC color guard competition at the 24th Annual Southern California Invitational Drill Meet competitions in March.
The cadets’ perfect score is an almost unheard of occurrence, said Worley, especially for a junior ROTC that has not entered such a team in 10 years.
“We were the exception to the rule,” said Worley.
The four cadets – 11th graders Eric Stepanian, Andrea LoCicero, Brandon Kim and Alan Lee – were honored with a silver trophy and loud cheers by their fellow cadets.
Cadets also took some time to say goodbye to aerospace science and life skills instructor Master Sgt. Debbie Melton, who will be retiring at the end of the school year after teaching at the high school since 2013.
During a special ceremony, the award-winning honor guard cadets presented Melton with a folded United States flag that earlier this year flew over the Capitol in Washington, DC.
“Thank you for taking the chance on me,” Melton said in her remarks to students, parents and staff. “I want each of you to remember everything I’ve taught you. I want you to promise to make the best of your lives, because nobody can do that for you but you.”