By Shelley Howard
The Bartram Trail High School Junior Air Force ROTC currently has approximately 179 registered cadets with a waiting list already formed for the next school year — and it’s not surprising when considering the exceptional year they have celebrated.
The Drill Team competed across the region, wrapping up with 24 trophies including such areas as first place in Armed Exhibition, Most Impressive Armed Exhibition Commander and Most Impressive Armed Regulation Commander.
Cadets participated in the St. Augustine Veterans Day parade, donated toys to Wolfson Children’s Hospital, laid wreaths at local cemeteries, performed beach clean up and many other service projects. On campus, the program provides manpower for all home football games and band competitions, raises the U.S. flag each day in the courtyard and helps with numerous other tasks that show dedication to the campus.
Cadets have found some down time to enjoy themselves — at their annual Chili Cook-Off dinner as well as by spending a weekend at Camp Blanding working with local Marines on the obstacle challenge course and organizing a formal Military Ball dinner and award night.
The cadets took their accreditation renewal year in stride. Retired Chief Master Sergeant from Maxwell Air Force Base Inspector Vicki Helmed spent an entire day at Bartram Trail High School, touring the facilities with Master Sergeant Miles and Colonel LeFevre and speaking with Group Commander Maria Canon, who led an impressive group flight presentation in the gym. Cadets were acknowledged with outstanding performance awards and congratulated on their top status of exceeded standards, which is the highest ranking a Junior Air Force ROTC program can receive.
While Bartram Trail’s AFJROTC program deserves recognition as an impressive group, there have been numerous individual stand outs as well. One of them, Cadet Ethan Griner, maintains a 4.2 GPA and ranks 102nd in his class of 600. He has held the position of Public Affairs Officer, Recruiting Officer, Drill Commander and Flight Sergeant and recently placed third in a national American Legion high school oratorical scholarship speech contest at Flagler College. During the Military Ball, Griner was honored with Junior Cadet of the Year, received the Sons of the American Revolution Leadership Award and was promoted to Cadet Colonel to begin serving as Group Commander.
Additionally, Griner will soon be representing BTHS on a much higher level after being awarded a $25,000 Chief of Staff Flight Academy Scholarship. The AFJROTC Flight Academy has recently been launched by Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama to address a national shortage of aircrew within the nation. This summer, 120 selected cadets will attend the accredited aviation program hosted by six universities to train for a private pilot license. The goal of this initiative is to increase diversity in flight training and “get the word out” regarding career opportunities in the aviation community.
Griner’s application was selected based on his physical training scores, academics, a test on aerospace knowledge, math, science and chart reading. Griner competed against 120,000 cadets nationwide for entry into the academy.
Photo courtesy Shelley Howard
Cadets march for Chief Master Sergeant Vickie Helmed during accrediting renewal