By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Roughrider Company received top scores during the annual military inspection of Port Angeles High School’s Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps unit Wednesday.
The 116 cadets and cadet staff of Roughrider Company, the only high school ROTC unit on the North Olympic Peninsula, stood stone-still at attention in formation while retired Navy Cmdr. Gary Velie, a Port Angeles resident, inspected the fit and finish of the cadets’ uniforms and asked them where they were in the NJROTC program.
“What an outstanding group of students,” Velie said in a phone interview after the inspection. “They’re just outstanding.”
After the inspection scores were tallied, the unit received an average score of 9.4 out of 10 while Roughrider Company cadet staff, those who lead the other cadets, received an average of 10 out of 10, said Master Chief Jeff Perry, the unit’s naval science instructor.
The annual military inspection scores are just one aspect of competition Roughrider Company cadets participate in every year, Perry said.
From December to March, Perry said Roughrider cadets travel to schools in Washington, Oregon and Idaho to test their skills against other cadets in drill team, color guard, physical fitness and air rifle competitions.
Roughrider cadets regularly make it to statewide and regional competitions, Perry said, while Roughrider Company as a whole has won the prestigious Distinguished Unit with Honors award seven years in a row — an award that only 10 percent of NJROTC units in the nation per year receive.
Lt. Cmdr Virginia Caynak, a Port Angeles High School senior and commanding officer of Roughrider Company, said her unit’s years of success are due in large part to the leadership of Perry and Maj. Leo Campbell, Roughrider Company’s 10-year senior naval
Caynak said she has stayed in NJROTC her entire high school career because of the determination and drive it has instilled in her and the leadership skills she’s gained leading other cadets.
“We learn a lot of responsibility that way,” Caynak said.
Campbell said the program teaches leadership skills in a military format. Only about half the cadets choose to go into the armed forces after graduating from high school.
Campbell said his cadets’ determination and desire for excellence is a big key to Roughrider Company’s success.
“They love to be valued and respected, and this program gives them that,” Campbell said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.