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NJROTC Distinguished Recognition - Central Oregonian

February 24, 2013
Crook County High School

“These kids – they’ll do anything,” gushed Commander Russ Robison, NJROTC instructor at Crook County High School.

As he talked about his students, he recalled a time when they requested some outdoor physical fitness work — on a 28-degree day. Robison appreciated their ambition, but declined their request, telling them in jest, “No way, you’ll die.”

Because of their ongoing commitment to strong academic achievement and volunteerism, the NJROTC unit again earned the Distinguished Unit Award. The Commander of the Naval Service Training Command gives the award to units that excel in several areas — particularly academics. The CCHS unit has now won it four times in the past five years.

Robison said the award places the greatest emphasis on grade point average, and factors in how many students in the unit have taken the SAT and ACT tests. Each unit takes national academic exam that helps determine who receives the award.

Beyond scholastic achievements, Distinguished Unit Award recipients have to show a commitment to volunteerism in the community — something that Robison and NJROTC Master Chief Donny Jackson has continued to emphasize.

“The ROTC students help with all our sports activities,” said Crook County High School Principal Rocky Miner, listing football, volleyball, basketball, and wrestling among them. “They’ll bring in the flag for the flag salute,” he continued. “They are setting up chairs, taking chairs down. Constantly, he (Jackson) has a group of kids helping, which makes our sports activities run smoother.”

Robison said he is proud of the students for winning the award, but he and Jackson do not run the program with such accolades in mind. The recognition instead comes as a byproduct of their focus on preparing students for life after high school — military or not.

“I try to keep more kids out of the military than I want to put in,” Robison said of his personal philosophy. He went on to explain that they will guide those students who want to enlist, but more than anything, he wants to help his students graduate and move on to some sort of post-high-school education.

“That’s our marching orders from the admiral,” Robison said.

The award should help the instructors in that regard, because it authorizes them to nominate three eligible NJROTC cadets for admission to the U.S. Naval Academy, three to the U.S. Military Academy, and three more to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“That’s cool, because normally, I have to go through the congressmen,” Robison said. “So, we can shortcut that process.”

The NJROTC cadets, like their instructors, do not necessarily pursue awards, but tend to earn them as a result of the hard work they commit to each day. Nevertheless, this does not diminish their elation when they earn special recognition.

“It’s a big deal,” Robison said. “They get the ribbon that they get to wear for it . . . and they also get a banner, so when they go to drill meets or they go to competitions . . . everybody sees those things.”

Along with the criteria specific to the unit, the award also recognizes the support given by the school administration. Miner said that they try their best to work with Robison and Jackson to help them add the types of classes they desire and support the unit in its programs and activities.

For Miner, the value of that support is showcased when they earn accolades like the Distinguished Unit Award.

“It’s an award that to me proves the hard work that not only Donny (Jackson) and Russ (Robison) are doing, but the whole program is doing,” he said.

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