Spring High School Navy JROTC instructor and retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Aundrey Gilchrist directs cadets during the unit’s annual inspection.
HOUSTON – Jan. 26, 2018 – As the largest Navy JROTC unit in Texas and one of the largest in the nation – more than 350 students are currently enrolled – Spring High School’s Lion Regiment can’t help but put on a big show. The unit’s annual inspection on Tuesday was no exception, with many hours of preparation and practice spent getting each detail just right before the big day.
“I thought the day went extremely well,” said retired U.S. Navy Captain James Boyer, who is also the unit’s lead instructor. “The cadets performed at an outstanding level, and, during our afternoon debrief with the inspector and our campus principal, Diaka Melendez, the inspector had nothing but praise for the individual students and the unit.”
The annual inspection is an important part of the unit’s accreditation and helps ensure continued federal funding to support program needs and activities, but it also offers an opportunity for cadets to show off their skills and demonstrate some of what they’ve learned as members of the regiment.
In addition to personnel inspections, cadets participated in marching exercises on the school’s field, as well as armed and unarmed drill team performances. A formal pass in review march gave students a chance to offer their respects as a unit to the inspector, retired U.S. Navy Captain William Isenbarger, who was on hand to observe and report on the day’s activities.
The pass in review is an important part of military tradition, according to Spring ISD Board Trustee Donald Davis, who was also on campus to observe the day’s activities.
“The annual inspection is a day when the full JROTC regiment gets a chance to show the world what they’ve learned and what they’ve been doing,” said Davis, a retired U.S. Army officer as well as a former longtime director of Westfield High School’s Army JROTC program. “It’s partly about the program’s accreditation, but also about showing what the program is all about and how well they’re doing at achieving their standards and goals.”
Asked for his take on Tuesday’s inspection activities, Davis said he was impressed. “The cadets look good,” he said. “They look exceptional.”
Following several morning events in the school’s gym and stadium, attendees gathered in the teaching theater for cadet briefs, a series of formal presentations given by the regiment’s student leaders to provide the inspector an overview of unit operations, recent milestones, obstacles overcome and ongoing items of importance.
“Units like this don’t just happen,” Isenbarger told the cadet leaders after they had finished their briefings. “Administratively, you folks are really squared away. I’m amazed how well you can manage and support all the people involved in this program. I can see that you put a lot of work into this, and it’s clear you know what you’re doing.”
Along with the briefings on unit operations, cadet leaders shared personal successes and accomplishments, as well as their goals and plans for the future – a wide-ranging list that included nursing, medical school, business leadership and teaching, as well as several cadets who hope to pursue careers as active-duty military officers after college.
Among the latter were Spring High School’s three seniors who are currently in the running for U.S. service academy appointments. They include Chandler Bienek and Nicolas Layne – who have each received two official nominations for the U.S. Naval Academy – and Max Hill, who has been nominated for an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Although the regiment’s leaders – who all served in the military before coming to teaching – are always glad to support students who aim to follow their footsteps into military careers, the JROTC focus, according to Isenbarger, has always been broader.
“Navy JROTC has never been primarily about military recruitment,” he said. “It’s about producing informed citizens who understand the value of sea power to the nation, and it’s about developing leadership skills in students, along with a commitment to excellence in everything they do.”
That commitment to excellence was on display Tuesday when several cadets were singled out for their performance. Nia Wilson, a sophomore currently in her second year with the regiment, was among those awarded a “Bravo Zulu” medal for her excellent showing during the day’s inspection events. Her mother, Bobbie Wilson, was in the stands to cheer her on.
“I see the students in the JROTC program, and they’re all very respectful, very mature for their age,” Wilson said. “I think it enhances their studies as well. The instructors really encourage them to do well in all their classes and exams. It offers them a well-rounded perspective and a good preparation for life in general.”
That preparation, Boyer emphasized, comes through the combined efforts of many people, including parents like Wilson.
“Some units don’t see as much parent involvement,” he said, “but we’ve got great parents, including our booster club members, who really do a lot to support the regiment. Their support, and the support we get from our principal and this campus – not to mention district administrators and our trustees – it means a lot. It makes a big difference.”