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Kofa MCJROTC named Naval Honor School

KHS JROTC Group The Kofa High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program has already earned plenty of accolades during the 2019-2020 school year, but their latest achievement may have topped them all.  

The school announced recently that the program has been awarded the designation of Naval Honor School for the current academic year, which places the group of more than 130 cadets and two instructors in the top 10 percent of JROTC programs in the nation.

In a letter addressed to Kofa instructor Sgt. Maj. Colen Laarman, National MCJROTC Program Director Col. R.G. Oltman wrote, “You and your unit are to be congratulated for attaining this distinction. It is through the superior efforts of units, such as yours, that the MCJROTC program’s goals are being achieved.”

The selection was based on several criteria including cadet citizenship, the percentage of cadets involved in student government organizations, the number of cadets active in school activities and clubs, the number of community service hours for the unit as a whole and per cadet, the number of organizations assisted by the unit, and scholastic achievements including the number of academic awards and scholarships given to cadets. The units were also measured by participation in public affairs events, drill team competitions, rifle team competitions, physical fitness team competitions, and field trips.

The recognition has been five years in the making for Laarman, who joined the Kofa program in its infancy, and had two goals in mind: achieve highly competitive results within the unit’s teams and earn the Naval Honor distinction.

“When I first came in here, one of the things I spoke to [KHS Principal Mike Sharp] about was where the program was at at the time: brand new, getting it up off the ground, and where we wanted to take it.” Laarman said. “One of the things we wanted to do was get our teams up and be competitors. We wanted competitive teams that could go places and bring things back for the students to see and admire and make them want to be here more.

“To get our program to the level of a Naval Honor School was one of the goals within a five-year period, and this is my fifth year here and with [Maj. Todd Birney’s] help, we were able to do that.” 

Birney and Laarman have worked as a team to help their cadets reach new heights in the past two years. They competed at the national level last spring and had two teams this year already qualify for nationals in 2020. In addition to multiple competition victories, several hundred hours of community service, and their newest honor, the rigorous program has continued to grow. For the first time since its inception into Yuma Union High School District in 2012, cadets have garnered interest from military academies.  

“Every year we get better, the cadets continue to get better,” Laarman said. “We know we can count on each other just like we did in the Marine Corps, and we apply a lot of the standards and training techniques that we used in the military in here. We teach them basic discipline first and that sets the platform for them getting everything else in line as we continue to grow.”

Because of this prestigious status, the KHS unit will have the opportunity to send nominations to the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and the Military Academy at West Point. The award also provides students who have a desire to join a service academy the significant advantage of earning recommendation letters from their JROTC instructors who, under this award designation, carry just as much weight as a letter from a U.S. Representative or Senator.  

Eric Patten