Best in the Nation, Socorro High School NJROTC
Back in June, the Socorro High School NJROTC became best in the nation, being named the Most Outstanding Unit by the U.S. Navy League. Two years ago, Socorro came in 3rd in the nation based on a wide variety of accomplishments such as Navy exams, community service, physical teams and color guards. Not one to rest on their laurels, and under the tutelage of school commander, Senior Naval Science Instructor Michael Morales and the rest of the NJROTC teachers, the unit regrouped and came back stronger than ever, beating more than 600 NJROTC units from across the nation.
Last Friday, the Downtown Lion’s Club honored the unit with a Certificate of Appreciation for their service and their accomplishment. Morales, along with his senior student officers at Soccorro, Senior Cadet Commanding Officer Jose Arreola and Lt. Commander Joseph Perez attended the festivities. The NJROTC (Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps) is a Navy based high school program that teaches students about military service and prepares them for higher education in any military service or college. Many of the students do, but are not required to, enter Navy enlistment.
Morales touted the many accomplishments that the unit has accumulated in the past year, which is in addition to the history of excellence in the Socorro program over the past two decades. Morales was especially proud of how much the students do that is above and beyond their neccessary duty, specifically when it comes to community service. As a matter of fact, Morales said that he was “warned” by the officer who recruited him for the position that Socorro normally does much more than expected, so expectations were high. Morales showed that although only 3500 yearly hours need to be done by the end of the school year, his unit racked up over 9000 hours that were further organized into the following categories: people oriented service, community service, and environmental service. “I never have to worry if I’m going to have enough kids to go to a function. Where some other schools may bring carloads or vanloads, we bring busloads of students.”
“We don’t have to hassle the kids about being wherever they’re supposed to be for an assignment or practice.” When asked when he knew his work was cut out for him as the lead instructor, Morales told the story of a competition in Kansas City where the students were outside in extreme conditions at night-time practicing to get their skills perfect…without having to be told to. “They were leading themselves.”
Both student commanders stood at attention throughout the ceremonies and during the interview and remained poised and professional in their answers and in their demeanor. Battalion Commander Arreola plans to join the Navy after graduation and into the Navy Combat Expeditioniary Unit and Lt. Commander Perez, a high school junior, plans to join the Marines and specialize in Weapons Design. Arreola, who has a 94 gpa, says that its not hard to get kids to join, showing that the NJROTC also helps students prepare for college. Lt. Commander Perez hopes to continue the legacy into the future and keep Socorro in the national spotlight. Arreola hopes to be able to come back in the future as an officer and see that Socorro has exceeded even his lofty expectations.