The award-winning Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJOTC) at Pisgah High School conducted its annual Area Manager’s Inspection (AMI) and Pass in Review in the school gymnasium Nov. 9.

Invited military officers, members of the community, and cadet family members were all present to honor the company’s achievements.

“Our high school has been most fortunate to have a Navy Junior ROTC program in its curriculum for 51 years,” said Capt. F. Winston Shearin, Pisgah’s senior naval science instructor. “The young men and women who participate in this unit have gone on to excel in the military, in businesses, and in universities around our world. I know that the good people of Haywood County are proud of these young people and the good work they accomplish in our society.”

A highlight of the morning’s review was the presence of the officer who founded the unit at Pisgah in 1970, 93-year-old Col. Ballard Brown. Three of his adult children were able to accompany him on his return to the school.

“The unit has progressed a long way,” he said. “I was extremely proud of them and thought they did extremely well.”

When asked if NJROTC prepares high school students to be good citizens, he immediately responded, “That is the main purpose of the program – to form citizenship. It prepares them well.”

He was joined by Pisgah’s fourth naval science instructor, retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Fred Smith, USMC, who led the corps from 1979 to 1996.

Arriving from Charlotte to officiate for the AMI and Pass in Review was retired Lt. Col. David Morgan. Morgan served 22 years as a communications officer in the United States Marine Corps, culminating in a tour as a battalion commander. He has also been a NJROTC instructor for many years in North Carolina.

Nationally, NJROTC high school cadets have proven to have higher school attendance, be better behaved, are role models for the avoidance of substance abuse, have higher self-esteem, develop positive life skills, on average have higher grade point averages, as well as graduating at a higher rate.

Pisgah Principal Clint Conner knows the importance of the program to his school.

“The Pisgah High School community is very grateful for our NJROTC unit here. It is very easy to see why our program is so successful,” he said. “This group out-works, out-thinks, out-hustles and out-cares everyone in its way. The leadership, service, and positive school spirit they bring to our campus is very appreciated. This program has something special going on.”

During the ceremony, Cadet Lt. Cmrd. Starling Inabnitt was awarded the Meritorious Achievement Ribbon for her life-saving actions when she came upon a vehicle accident in Canton on her way to school. An elderly man was severely injured and Inabnitt saved his life by applying pressure to a bleeding injury.

“NJROTC has played many important roles in my life including discipline and knowledge,” she said. “In order to be a good leader, you first have to be a good follower. It has also helped me discover what I want to do after high school.”

Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers said that one of the highlights of his job is attending the annual inspection.

“This year meant more, however, as a result of the floods,” he said. “The cadets were directly impacted by the storms, so to see their resolve, their strength to continue even in the most difficult of times provides inspiration to all of us. They truly represent the best of our community.

The NJROTC accredited curriculum emphasizes citizenship and leadership development, as well as our nation’s maritime heritage and fundamentals of naval operations, seamanship, navigation and meteorology.

Classroom instruction is augmented by extra-curricular activities of community service, academic, drill and orienteering competitions, marksmanship sports training, and physical fitness.

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