Dunkirk JROTC Unit finishes out a strong year

The local Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) is in its 24th year at Dunkirk High School, and as the years have grown, so has the involvement of this unit to the local area.

The current school year has seen the unit doing things it is always known for, such as community volunteering, taking part in drill and ceremony competitions and learning leadership skills. However, this year they welcomed army inspectors in to do the JROTC accreditation that comes up every three years.

The accreditation pretty much goes through every nook and cranny of the unit, listening to presentations from cadets and checking out everything the unit does and has done as a whole. Their goal is to earn the rank of Honor Unit with Distinction, which requires a score of 95% or higher, that ranking earns the cadets a gold star worn above their name tag on their uniforms; it’s a lot of work and they’re making headway.

“Last time they scored an 89%,” JROTC Instructor SFC. Frank Torain said. “This time it was a 94%, just one point shy, but it was a huge improvement.”

A few years back that score would have awarded the unit a blue star, labeling them as an Honor Unit, however, the two lower level awards were dropped and now all units must strive for Honor Unit with Distinction if they wish to receive a star. While Dunkirk didn’t qualify this year, they surely passed with flying colors as all units have to score at least a 70% to pass.

“There’s a new format now,” Torain added. “The old format had a staff briefing where the staff members get in front of the inspectors and tell all about themselves and their job, now it’s called a continuous improvement project. Cadets have to pick something in the unit that needs to be improved and they then have to plan, organize and execute it by meeting once a month to do updates on how things are progressing. They have to collect data which has to show how they’re progressing. When they’re all done, they have to put together a presentation for the inspectors to see how well they did, how well they planned it, how they implemented it and how they evaluated it using data.”

Another area that the Dunkirk unit is working at expanding is Service Learning. Service learning is an active and experiential learning strategy where students have a direct impact on an identified need that interests and motivates them. It requires sequential lessons that are organized so orientation and training come before the meaningful service activity and structured reflection follows the activity. Service learning requires active participation in structured teamwork.

This year, on the last week of March, they did a basketball clinic for special needs students. Involved in it they had other people participate that were not in the district such as Randolph.

“I’d like to see them build on that,” Torain stated. “Perhaps we could get involved with the Special Olympics, maybe have a field day of events in addition to the basketball.”

Special teams is also a focus of the unit’s immediate future.

“The biggest thing right now with special teams is getting our numbers up, getting people to come to practice and be dedicated about putting the time in to be good,” Torain stated. “One of the things that I want to see us do going forward is to get more involved in drill team, take the colorguard that we have and get them more competitive, because I see a lot of potential. We’ve done very well with academic quiz bowl. And also continue to do some of the other things that we’ve been doing, such as community service, the service learning projects and see what we can do to impact the school.”

The unit currently houses 89 kids, next year they’re looking at about 82, which is around the average number. The biggest thing, however, is that they have more kids returning than in recent years, with 27 upcoming freshmen for the next school year.

Next year’s goals include building up their special teams, getting the cadets to understand what it is to be a leader, having and identifying another project that they can mentor and building onto the current service project of the basketball clinic.