West Orange High School Air Force Junior ROTC Receives Top Rating from Department of Defense

Iveth Gonzales; Abby Rosu; Gabrielle Petrucelli; Chase Garguilo; Ben Young; Danielle Arrabito; Brianna Flores; Denado; and Andrei Rosu. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Major Joseph Marchesini, cadet Iveth Gonzales, Chief Master Sgt. Ricardo Thurston. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Cadet Major Danielle Arrabito and Cadet Staff Sergeant Ayana Tapper Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Mountaineer Squadron members. Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange High School (WOHS) Air Force Junior ROTC recently received the top rating of “Exceeds Standards” during its first Department of Defense inspection, certifying the Junior ROTC unit as one of the top in the nation.

“This is an incredible honor for our Mountaineer Squadron,” said Major Joseph Marchesini USAF (ret), Commander of the AFJROTC. “An 'Exceeds Standards' rating is most often seen in older, more established units because they have had more time to get it right. It's especially impressive we earned it in only our fourth year.”

Colonel Ben Young, USAF (ret.) from AFJROTC Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, conducted the inspection, which is required by the Department of Defense to evaluate the operation, administration, and effectiveness of AFJROTC units for contractual compliance, cost, and performance. The intent of these visits is to provide a graded assessment as to how the unit is functioning and performing the mission of "Developing Citizens of Character Dedicated to Serving their Nation and Community."

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The cadets were integral to the success of the inspection, organizing and orchestrating the day. Teaching lessons, marching, uniform inspection and a unit mission briefing given by top-ranking cadets were a few of the components included in the inspection.

Mountaineer Squadron's lead cadet for this inspection was Cadet Major Danielle Arrabito, assisted by Cadet Staff Sergeant Ayana Tapper. Both worked countless hours preparing for this inspection and were recognized as "Top Performers" by Col. Young.

The popular program at WOHS began in 2013 with 52 cadets. Maj. Marchesini and Chief Master Sergeant Ricardo Thurston have already closed admissions for September of 2017.

“One-hundred-and-seven students applied for the program, and we accepted 145,” said Marchesini, who also said that the program would be moving into a larger space at the start of the new school year.

Although recruitment into military service is not a goal of the program, three WOHS Squadron Alumni are currently attending military academies—Dylan Pennell (WOHS Class of 2014), US Naval Academy; Danielle Arrabito (Class of 2015), USAF Academy, and Christopher Morgan (Class of 2015), West Point. Current senior Andrei Rosu will attend West Point after graduation.

“Our students have also received over $500,000 in scholarships this year, including scholarships to UCLA and Georgetown University,” said Marchesini.

This year, the Mountaineer Squadron has logged more than 2,000 hours of community service, appeared in 22 Color Guard presentations, held a Veteran’s Day Ceremony, performed in drill competitions, and held a Bataan Death March Memorial Hike at South Mountain Reservation, to name a few.

The unit will hold its annual Memorial Day Ceremony in May and cadets will have the opportunity in June to fly with the Civilian Air Patrol (the Auxiliary Unit of the Air Force) in Cessna 172s.

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