WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange High School Jr. Air Force ROTC celebrated several major successes at the annual Military Formal and Awards Ceremony, held on June 1 at the Wilshire Grand Hotel.

More than 200 cadets, family members and friends were on hand to recognize outstanding cadets and graduating seniors, and to enjoy several milestones achieved by the Jr. AFROTC program in just four short years.

The event opened with the POW/MIA Ceremony, leaving an empty table for all members of the military still missing in action. Welcomes and toasts were next, followed by the infamous mixing of “The Grog,” a foul liquid creation that is imbibed by those committing infractions of the rules of order.

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The awards ceremony began after dinner and cadets were recognized in several categories. To see the complete list of award recipients, go here.

The Jr. AFROTC program at West Orange High School has been phenomenally successful and has grown in number each year. This year’s complement of cadets numbered 106; the number for 2017-18 is already capped at 166. The program has become a mainstay at the high school and at township military ceremonies.

Graduating seniors Chase Garguilo, Andrei Rosu, Matthew Stern, Iveth Gonzales and Danielle Arrabito proudly received shadowboxes, a long-standing tradition that highlights the recipient’s military career.

As if these accolades were not enough, Principal Hayden Moore stepped to the podium to announce that both Maj. Joseph Marchesini (USAF-Ret.) and Chief Ricardo Thurston had been awarded with Outstanding Instructor Awards by the Air Force. This award is only given to 10 percent of all instructors worldwide annually.

Once the Air Force has that top 10 percent selected, they pick one officer and one enlisted instructor for each of the six geographical regions as Region Outstanding Instructors of the year. Principal Moore then announced Maj. Marchesini had been named an Outstanding Instructor for Region II, who is now considered one of the top 12 Jr. AFROTC instructors worldwide.

The West Orange Jr. ROTC had their first official inspection this year, receiving the highest possible rating of Distinguished Unit with Merit. It is the highest award an AFJROTC unit can receive and West Orange High School was the only unit in the State of New Jersey to receive it this year. In fact, only 78 of 900 units worldwide received the distinction in 2017.

To be considered for this award a unit must receive an "Exceeds Standards" rating on their inspection, average at least 12 community service hours per enrolled cadet and have met all Air Force deadlines and requirements. All cadets who come back to ROTC next year will wear the coveted Distinguished Unit with Merit ribbon on their uniform.

Of particular significance, the service academies are required to set aside slots every year for cadets from JROTC units that have won this award. This will give WOHS cadets an advantage should they wish to attend a military academy.

The event ended with the ceremonial retirement of this year’s Cadet Lt. Colonel and Squadron Commander, Iveth Gonzales, and appointment of the 2017-18 Commander, Abby Rosu.

As the ceremony concluded and the colors were retired, cadets enjoyed some fun on the dance floor thanks to DJ Justin Davis.

To see all the photos from the Military Formal and Awards Ceremony, go here.