Setting higher goals and exceeding standards has led the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps students at Benton High School to earn another prestigious award. Benton High School’s Army JROTC battalion earned the rating of Honor Unit with Distinction (HUD) following a recent evaluation of the program. “Earning Honor Unit with Distinction is evidence that our cadets are completing their mission and living up to their vision,” commented MSG Billingsley, who serves as a JROTC instructor at Benton High School.
Demonstrating great courage, skill and strength, the JROTC students proved their capabilities once again to achieve excellent results. LTC Timothy Farmer, the Senior Army Instructor for the program, stated, “I’m extremely proud of their effort and dedication. Our Cadets have worked hard, and, in many cases, devoted extra hours after school to achieve this honor.”
Every three years, each JROTC program goes through an inspection of a JROTC unit’s instruction and performance by the Junior ROTC Program of Accreditation (JPA). According to LTC Farmer, the inspection is paramount to the success of the program. Failing to meet established standards can result in probation and the risk of having the program disbanded.
Honor Unit with Distinction is the highest of three ratings a JROTC program can earn. Programs that meet the minimum standards are rated as “Proficient,” whereas an “Unsatisfactory” rating means the program is below the minimum. In order for the program to earn the HUD rating, it must achieve 95% or greater of the total points available in the inspection. LTC Farmer was thrilled for the BHS program to be recognized as a unit that has demonstrated exceptional performance in all areas of program operation. “HUD units,” he noted, “are the top 10% of the approximately 1700 plus JROTC units across the nation.”
The JPA inspection process is rigorous and demanding. The process has five major areas, but two are extremely important. The Battalion Continuous Improvement Plan Briefing (CIP) and the Service Learning Project Briefing (SLP) are critical components of the inspection.
Billingsley explained that during the CIP, the cadet battalion command and staff must present a continuous improvement briefing, which utilizes data, a nine-step planning process, SMART goals, continuous reflection, and modification of the plan to demonstrate continuous improvement to the battalion. “Our cadets began working on the CIP at the beginning of school and sacrificed a lot personal time with friends and family as well as employment opportunities to ensure its success,” commented Billingsley.
The SLP combines the JROTC curriculum with service to the community. It includes a minimum of 10 hours of lessons; intense research and use of data; and meaningful service to the community. Additionally, all cadets participate in a personality assessment relevant to the project. Cadets use the data from the personality assessment to develop a personal growth plan/goal that both before and after the SLP.
So what does earning Honor Unit with Distinction mean for the cadets? “First, it earns them the reputation and pride that goes with this great honor and that is highly motivating. Next, our Cadets get to wear a Gold Star on their uniform, which lets all other JROTCs know our battalion is an Honor Unit with Distinction. Additionally, cadets from Honor Units with Distinction also have an advantage when applying for ROTC scholarships during the college application process. Leaving the most important benefit for last, LTC Farmer explained, “The Senior Army Instructor can recommend and provide a Cadet from their program a nomination letter to one of the military services academies (West Point, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy), if they are otherwise qualified. This is equivalent to a recommendation from a Senator or Congressman.”