DERRY — Students in Pinkerton Academy’s AFJROTC program received top honors from those who know the program best.
The Department of the Air Force sent inspectors to the Derry high school recently to give the AFJROTC program a complete look, from checking curriculum and activities right down to the number of uniforms hanging in the storage closet.
The unit evaluation process gave Pinkerton an overall assessment score of “Exceeds Standards.”
In the 13 years Pinkerton has offered the AFJROTC program students have learned not only about the Air Force, but also how to perform drills, study aeronautics and be community minded with a broad range of activities outside the classroom to serve and help others.
The inspection is done every three years, according to Lt. Col. Howie Steadman, one of three faculty that oversee the program.
“It shows everything we are doing in our program,” Steadman said, “the background of our unit.
That includes observing the students in uniform and watching them study and learn.
The Air Force inspector said the Pinkerton cadets were among the best he’s ever seen.
The inspection also looked at other details like the school contract with the Air Force, how money is handled and even if all textbooks and other materials listed as purchases are all accounted for.
“We get government money to help our program,” Steadman said. “He looked at accounting, fundraising accounts, logistics. It all gets down to a lot of detail.”
Steadman said the program is so successful that about 50 percent of the cadets ahve gone on to some sort of military study or career.
Many of his previous students keep in touch.
“We have graduates from 12-13 years ago that come back,” Steadman said. “They are the same buddies. You make lifelong friends in here.”
In a letter to Steadman, Air Force officials commended Pinkerton and all they do with their JROTC program.
“You should be proud of this accomplishment,” Col. Matthew Anderer said in the letter. “Your program defines the term ‘successful unit’ and establishes the benchmark for others to follow.”
Steadman said the program is not easy but well worth it for students who commit to hard work.
“We’re tough, we’re strict with the kids, there’s a lot of community service,” he said. “Why do kids join? We also do neat stuff, maybe some siblings were in the program. I once had four from one family at the same time in the program.”
Steadman said he is happy that the program was recognized for its efforts.
“The kids do a super job, we are all very proud of them,” Steadman said. “They put a lot of work into it.”