The young high school cadets paraded around the perimeter of the gym floor, moving with precision, executing their steps in unison.
The four companies of the Churchill County High Schools Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program put on a disciplined show for not only military brass and honored guests but also for their families and friends.
“Distinguished leadership teamwork learned here is amazing,” said Capt. Leif Steinbaugh, commanding officer at Naval Air Station Fallon. “This will serve you for the rest of your life even if you don’t join the military.”
Steinbaugh, who assumed command in 2013, also commended the cadets for their devotion to community service and said they are at the halfway point in completing their number of hours.
“I applaud you doing this and for your time and effort,” he added.
Many of the cadets participating in the pass in review have parents and relatives who are currently serving in the Armed Forces or retired after putting in a distinguished career.
A presentation honoring Jonathan Grimes, cadet operations officer, midway through the ceremony centered on his academic achievement. U.S. Navy Officer Recruiter Lt. K.C. Dalton from Reno announced the Fallon senior was selected for a Navy ROTC scholarship worth $180,000. Grimes will attend Stanford University.
Grimes, at first, deflected any question about him, and discussed the role of veterans, a topic coinciding with Veterans Day.
“These veterans are serving our country in an all-volunteer service,” Grimes said. “And they are doing it willing and well.”
Grimes’ idol has been his grandfather, and other relatives who have served in the Navy. Grimes said he respects and admires each one.
As for the Navy JROTC program, Grimes said the camaraderie has been great and all the cadets, including him, consider the program as family. During his four years in JROTC, Grimes said he focused on the military training and academics and will finish as one of the top students academically at CCHS.
“Navy Junior ROTC gave me purpose,” he said.
Erin Ofrecio, the cadet commanding officer, said being in JROTC has been the best four years of her life. Although she is undecided if she will join the military after college, she praised veterans.
“They do so much for us,” she said. “We try to volunteer as much as they do in community service.”
Two freshmen are learning about discipline and teamwork and how veterans have made a difference.
“They do so much to serve in (the) defense of their country,” said Kyla Fabian. “They do it from their heart and never complain about it.”
Like Grimes, Jamison Ucci’s grandfather, a Navy command master chief (CMC), has helped him make the transition into JROTC. Overall, Ucci, whose dad also served in the Navy, said he is learning more about military bearing and drill.
From his relatives and from the lessons in JROTC, Ucci said he is learning more about the role of veterans and how much they care about the country.”
CMC Bobby Anderson from NAS Fallon sat in review and said he was impressed with the cadets’ discipline and high standards.
“It’s amazing that at a young age they work in cohesion,” Anderson said.
Capt. Robert Kermen, commanding officer of the NJROTC program, first served in the active Navy as a gunner on a riverboat in Vietnam. When he left the service, he eventually transferred to the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Beginning his third year at the helm of the Fallon program, Kermen retired as a teacher in California before accepting the position in Fallon, but the attachment to students is apparent.
“I get attached to these kids,” He said. “They are very dedicated in what they do. I am very proud of them … guilty as sin of pride.”
Kermen, like a father to more than a hundred cadets, is concerned about their learning and future.
“I wonder where they will be in 10 years,” he said. “I want them to be on the right track and successful citizens.”