The William Byrd High School Air Force JROTC held its 12th annual Dining Out Awards ceremony on April 19 at Thrasher Memorial.
Guest speaker for the event was Col. Steven W. Biggs, commander of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, Detachment 880 at VMI in Lexington. He leads a team of eight active duty members in training and developing a cadet wing of more than 300 members into Air Force officers.
Biggs told the cadets that, like them, he was also a member of his high school JROTC. In fact, he met his wife Lydia through high school JROTC— although they were in units at rival high schools.
Col. Biggs has served in the Air Force for 26 years and as a pilot since 1997. He has flown combat missions in Operations Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Freedoms Sentinel, and Inherent Resolve. He has served in numerous operational and support positions including Flight Commander, Squadron Commander, and Director of Staff, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint-Base Langley.
His message to the cadets was that although he came from a humble background, raised by a single mother in challenging circumstances, and unable to afford college on his own, through hard work he was able to choose his own path in life, believing that “nobody owes you anything— always do your best.”
He advised them that “life is a team sport; without others you won’t reach your full potential,” and to seek out mentors for support. He emphasized that “your current circumstances don’t dictate your choices— let them push you forward, not drag you backwards.”
Lt. Col. Jay Thompson, who heads up the AFJROTC program at Byrd as Senior Aerospace Science instructor, presented the awards to cadets, announcing that more awards will be given before the year ends. He was assisted by M/Sgt. Allen Culbreth, WBHS Aerospace Science instructor, in recognizing “high achievers for their accomplishments and contributions to the Air Force JROTC, the school, and the community.”
Culbreth advised the cadets that many of the awards have “specific criteria that focus on achievement in academic classes as well as performance in JROTC, in keeping with the third Air Force Core Value, ‘Excellence in all we do.’”
The Tuskegee Airman Ribbon was presented to Cadets Zach Minter and Seth Dillon. This award recognizes cadets in good academic standing with a “B” or better in Aerospace Science class, who are active in the cadet corps and participate in at least 50 percent of all unit programs.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart award was presented to Cadet Will Cummings. It recognizes an outstanding third or fourth year cadet who demonstrates leadership ability by holding a leadership position in the corps, has a “B” or better average, and is active in school and community affairs.
The National Society of the United States Daughters of 1812 award recognized Cadet Simon Liu for academic excellence, leadership, military discipline, dependability, patriotism, and upright character, exemplifying the ideals upon which the nation was founded.
The Scottish Rite Medal was presented to Cadet Triniti House, by John Hartsock of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction. This award goes to a cadet who “contributes the most to encourage Americanism by participation in extracurricular activities or community projects, demonstrates academic excellence, dependability, good character, self-discipline, and patriotism.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Award was presented to Cadet Kylie Pettit for her positive attitude toward the AFJROTC, outstanding military bearing and conduct, and strong personal attributes.
Cadet Nathaniel Lee received the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) award from Brig. Gen. Scott Van Cleef of the Southwest Virginia Chapter. This award is given to a cadet who is in good academic standing, possesses high moral character, shows high loyalty to the unit, school, and community, and demonstrates exceptional potential for military leadership.
The Military Order of World Wars award was presented to Cadet Heather Cavacloglou as an outstanding cadet who has committed to remaining in the AFJROTC program and has shown outstanding service to the unit.
The Reserve Officers Association Award recipient was Cadet Jacob Willard. This award goes to a cadet with leadership characteristics, including “positive attitude, outstanding pride in wear of the uniform, initiative, judgment, and self-confidence,” who ranks in the top 10 percent of their JROTC class.
Cadets Eric Oliver and Heather Cavacloglou received the American Veterans Award from Mike Fries and Gene Hull of the local AMVETS Post 40. This award honors cadets who show great officer potential, set the standard for wear of the uniform, and show strong initiative, dependability, and judgment.
The AMVETS also made a special presentation to Cadet Jasmine Allinson with the awarding of a $1,000 scholarship. Allinson currently has plans to attend WVU in the fall.
Allinson was also the recipient of the Daughters of the American Revolution Award from Regent Sharon Menzies and Lisa Gascoyne from the Roanoke Valley Chapter DAR. This award is presented to a fourth-year cadet who demonstrates qualities of good character, dependability, adherence to military discipline, and an understanding of the importance of JROTC training.
Cadet Try Postles was the recipient of this year’s American Legion General Military Excellence Award given to a cadet who ranks in the top 25 percent of their AFJROTC class, and who demonstrates outstanding qualities in military leadership, character, and citizenship.
The American Legion Scholastic Award was presented to Cadet Jasmine Allinson. This award goes to a cadet ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class and the top 25 percent of their AFJROTC class who demonstrates leadership and actively participates in student activities.
The highest medal presented in 2018, the Air Force Association Award, was presented to Cadet Elijah Oltmanns by Brig. Gen. Van Cleef and Col. Thompson, both AFA Life Members and local chapter representatives. This medal is the highest-level award you can win without “putting yourself at risk of life or great bodily harm.” It recognizes a third-year cadet who possesses a positive attitude toward AFJROTC, displays initiative, judgment, and self-confidence, has an outstanding appearance in wear of the uniform, and a courteous demeanor. Oltmanns is the son of Heather and Todd Oltmanns.
Traditionally one cadet is chosen from each year group for the Outstanding Cadet Ribbon— someone of high moral character, outstanding military potential, and positive personal attributes who has attained academic and military excellence. This year’s winners were Jasmine Allinson (fourth year), Elijah Oltmanns (third year), Will Cummings (second year), and Heather Cavacloglou (1st year).
The Dining Out program included the Transfer of Command Ceremony. Cadet Lt. Col. Jasmine Allinson, who is a senior at William Byrd, relinquished her position as Commander to Cadet Lt. Col. Elijah Oltmanns, a junior in the program.
The event also included the traditional POW/MIA Ceremony honoring those missing in action or prisoners of war in all wars and in all branches of the service.
Several cadets participated in the grog presentation, which involves drinking a disgusting concoction (rumored this year to contain cottage cheese and hot sauce in addition to other ingredients) for supposed rule infractions.
Col. Thompson closed the program by telling the cadets that there are “folks now on active duty around the world who were here where you were as freshmen. They have left a legacy.”
The AFJROTC program at WBHS was established in 2006.
The banquet was catered by Germaine Fletcher.