Smart, accomplished and driven

Student drill team captures top academic honors


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The Eagle River High School Air Force JROTC team, back row, left to right: Cadets Kayla Fogleman, Alexis Thrasher, Cole Mooty, Anthony Tubon, Stephen Friend (slightly hidden), Keith Brown, Stephen Peyton, Brady McGee, Nicklas Prior and Yassi Scott. Second row, left to right: Cadets Danny Thomas, Jessica Mooty, Ashley Cowley, William Salter, Brandon Fast, Karina Ramosbarbosa and Hannah Smejkal. Front row, left to right: Dustin Tegeler, Derek Jensen, Taylor Octeau, Kevin Sutton and Colton Terminel.

CMSGT. BILL MCNEW

Eagle River High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC dominated the Alaska State Drill Meet competition held Feb. 22, at Service High School, bringing home two first-place and one third-place designations plus winning the academic award for the large school division. The competition included JROTC teams from 13 Alaska high schools. Large school division included teams with 21 or more members on the drill team.

“I am very proud of our drill team members and their accomplishments this year,” said Bill McNew, ERHS aerospace science instructor and JROTC advisor. “These cadets attend drill practices that start at 0600 at least two days a week and some of the cadets are on multiple teams meaning they practice five days a week.”

The ERHS drill team members took the top academic award with a cumulative average grade point average of 3.37, which is a B average.

That takes consistent work off the drill floor, said McNew.

His students concur.

“I generally skim over notes each night and if it is a subject that I’m struggling with, I will refer to upper class peers, my parents, or my teachers,” said Alex Wolfert, a freshman. “I am motivated to get good grades by the fact that it would be selfish of me to get bad grades, as I’d be letting down a team.”

That sense of teamwork is part of what motivates Jessica Mooty, a junior.

“I like to get my homework done at least the night before it is due. That way, if I have problems or other student’s do, we can work together to figure them out,” she said.

Sophomore Brandon Fast said he aims to study three hours each school night – one before he goes swimming and two afterwards. He said being on the drill team helps keep him motivated regarding his grades. Besides, he has some lofty aspirations.

“I am trying to get accepted into the US Air Force Academy and good grades are the main way to get there,” he said.

Cole Mooty, a freshman who commanded the ERHS Color Guard taking first place in the Feb. 22 competition, said completing his homework is first on his to-do list when he gets home from school.

“Even though I am a freshman, I know the price of college and I am motivated to get good grades to attempt to earn a scholarship,” he said.

For Derek Jensen, a senior who is also the unit’s Lt. Commander, his study habits include grabbing a snack, turning on some music and “whittling away” at his homework.

“In between assignments, I step away from my homework for a quick break to regain my focus,” he said. It is a skill that helps him on the drill floor as commander of the ERHS Armed Regulation Drill team that won first place on Feb. 22 making it the state champion for that competition division.

The Regulation Color Guard drill team took third.

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