On May 10, 2016, cadets assembled in the Chapel to receive the news they’ve nervously anticipated all year: Did they pass the JROTC Formal Inspection, known to all as “FI?” Did they retain MMA’s status as an Honor Unit with Distinction? Will the 128th Corps be allowed to wear the Gold Star?
The answer, presented by MMA Senior Army Instructor CPT Carl Estenik, was YES. The Corps responded with cheers to the news, echoed again when President McGeorge and Dean of Academics Dr. Frank Giuseffi offered a sleep-in the next day.
The reward came after a long process of preparation on the part of the JROTC faculty, cadet service learning project leaders, the battalion staff and the rest of the Corps. In addition to the typical inspection items such as barracks inspections, in ranks inspections and drill inspection, several new reports were required.
Representatives from each LET level presented summaries of their service learning projects and fielded questions from inspectors. The projects included cleanup of the local performing arts center, Presser Hall, park cleanup and flood plain restoration, a tree planting project and support for a local organization that provides materials to foster children. The projects were planned by each LET group and executed on April 12.
The Battalion Commander Emran Babak, Battalion Command Sergeant Major Oscar Cortada and Battalion Executive Officer Jesus Gracia then presented the Continuous Improvement Project, which is a yearlong program required for reaccreditation by JROTC. The group had tackled updates to the inspection manual, since confusion and discrepancies made it difficult to communicate standards across the Corps of Cadets, resulting in unequal checks among the companies.
The cadets performed extremely well in all aspects of the evaluation, receiving high praise from the inspecting team during the outbrief conducted by the inspecting team.
All presentations and projects had to fulfill requirements based on rubrics set forth by JROTC. FI preparation began at the start of the academic year. Cadets and faculty met several times prior to the actual inspection to rehearse presentations, polish portfolios and practice questions and answers.
The new, more rigorous review is part of the JROTC Program for Accreditation, or JPA. Drill, color guard and barracks inspections compose a small part of the total score. The majority of the eligible score is derived from evaluation of instructor portfolios, the Continuous Improvement Project and the Service Learning projects.
According to President McGeorge, the new, more rigorous process is resulting in fewer schools with Honor Unit designations.
“This honor is the culmination of hard work by the entire school over the last 36 months and 12 months in particular. The accreditation process by JROTC is now every three years, and this year they introduced a completely new and more rigorous format, greatly reducing the number of schools with this designation,” he said.