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Kofa JROTC cadets visit MCAS
Students in U.S. Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (MCJROTC) courses spent the day at Yuma's Marine base Wednesday.
A total of 130 cadets from Kofa High School visited Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and took part in a question-and-answer discussion with local Marines. The students also observed the Marine Corps Birthday Pageant, had lunch in the mess hall and took a tour of the VMA-214 “Blacksheep” hangar and flight line.
Additionally, 70 qualified cadets were promoted to cadet private first class at MCAS Yuma after passing an exam. They met grade requirements and received a recommendation based on their performance from their Marine instructor, Master Gunnery Sgt. Eric Holland. They were finally approved by their senior Marine instructor, Maj. Brian Bell. Holland and Bell are both retired Marines with more than 20 years of service, hired by the school district.
Bell said that 147 students are enrolled in the districtwide MCJROTC program, which was instituted on Kofa's campus for the first time in August.
He wanted to bring the students out to MCAS Yuma to not only be a part of the Marine Corps birthday celebration but also to give them an opportunity to talk with other younger Marines and to promote those who had met the requirements. Students who successfully complete two or more years the program can enter the military at a higher rank and are also eligible to be nominated for college ROTC and service academy scholarships.
“This is a leadership training program, so I hope they grow in their leadership abilities, their character and their time management skills so they can be successful after high school,” said Bell, who noted that he has seen the students make great strides since the start of the class 10 weeks ago.
Some students, he said, initially struggled with the concept of having to adhere to standards, exercising self-discipline, meeting grooming standards and making grades in other classes.
“I've seen huge improvements since the beginning of the year,” he said. “... Their parents are coming up to us and saying that their son or daughter is really working hard in all of their classes, which is something we really stress.”
Bell said if students are making an “A” grade in his class but failing other courses, that is not acceptable.
Sienne Soriano, 14, said that although visiting MCAS Yuma is an everyday thing for her because she lives on base, she enjoyed the experience with her classmates.
Soriano was selected to be the executive officer for the MCJROTC program at Kofa.
“I felt honored to be chosen for that. I didn't think I was worthy enough to get it because I was a freshman. But I guess they saw something in me.”
Fellow classmate Jesus Norzagaray, 17, said although he doesn't plan to join the military, he was interested in the program on Kofa's campus because of the discipline that went along with it. He added that it's been a privilege to learn from Bell and Holland.
“The class develops your leadership skills and helps you learn how to handle day-to-day scenarios,” said Norzagaray, who is the commanding officer for the MCJROTC program. He plans to become a police officer or an FBI agent.
Ricardo Hernandez, 18, said that being in the MCJROTC program at Kofa has been a great opportunity for him to learn the basics before joining the Marines after high school.
He said he felt honored to be promoted at MCAS Yuma, especially since he just joined the program a month ago. “I had a lot of learning to do. It was pretty challenging, but I did it.”
Courvoisier Lucas, 16, said he was grateful for the opportunity to spend the day at MCAS Yuma.
“It was awesome just being able to hang out with everybody and go through the promotion ceremony and seeing the smiles on everybody's faces,” said Lucas, who noted that he plans to join the Marines like his father. “A lot of our cadets got promoted and I was very happy about that.”
Charles Phillips, 16, said that he also enjoyed visiting the air station and talking to Marines about their travels. He likes the MCJROTC program because it gives people the chance to step up and be a leader while also getting a feel for what Marine life might really be like.
“I think it's a great opportunity for the high schoolers and it's something I'm very proud of. It really opened me up, too. I used to be really shy and after being in the program, it opened me up personality-wise. I'm more open with people and I can communicate a lot better.”