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Air Force JROTC gives presentation at USD 443 Board of Ed meeting

Judd Weil
Dodge City Daily Globe
Master Sgt. Raymond Gonzales and JROTC cadets Noah Elias, Seth Brooks, Ryan Rogers and Sidney Aguilar give a presentation regarding the activities and merits of the Air Force JROTC Program. [JUDD WEIL/DODGE CITY DAILY GLOBE]

Returning after a long break following its Nov. 9 meeting, the Dodge City Unified School District 443 Board of Education was given a presentation of information by the Air Force Junior ROTC program, overseen by instructor Master Sgt. Raymond Gonzales and four of his students that make unit KS-2021.

In 2018, USD 443 made the decision to pursue an Air Force JROTC program and in late 2019 was awarded an Air Force JROTC program with the expectation of implementing this program in August 2020.

Gonzales was hired to fill one of the two instructor positions in June 2020, and from there began to develop the program.

“I am so excited about being in Dodge City and in the high school,” said Gonzales. “The very first unit, KS-2021, is the unit designation, designating it’s the year 2020 and we’re the first one in Kansas, very proud of that and excited to be part of that.”

Gonzales said that the mission of JROTC is to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their community and county.

He goes on to explain some of the ways that character is built in JROTC, including the cadet code, leadership definition and Air Force values, and that part of their curriculum is divided into leadership education and aerospace science.

“JROTC in a nutshell is a ‘leadership laboratory,’ ” Gonzales said. “We take these cadets, put them in uniform, lead them by the things I already told you about. We let them make some mistakes, they get rank, get position, they move up as they stay in and as they do good things.”

Gonzales explained the program is essentially run by the cadets and the goals they set for the year.

Cadet 1st Lt. Noah Elias, the program’s flight commander for recruiting, told the BOE that they have held recruiting events at both Comanche Middle School and Dodge City Middle School, and that they are trying to host another event at Sacred Heart Catholic School in January.

Elias said that having 100 personnel is necessary for all JROTC programs, such as drill team and marksman team.

“I don’t see why any cadets coming in freshmen won’t enjoy ROTC,” said Elias as he expressed pride in the program.

Cadet Lt. Col. Seth Brooks, the commander for drill team and E-Squadron, explained what is learned in the JROTC drill team, such as discipline and teamwork. He added that drill team is an exceptional alternative for cadets not wanting to play sports.

“It’s a great bonding experience with a lot of cadets,” Brooks said. “I have certainly built better bonds while in drill.”

Brooks said that the drill team will travel out of Kansas to such places as Missouri, Nebraska and Texas for drill events and hopes they will be able to.

Cadet Maj. Ryan Rogers, flight commander for JROTC logistics team, was the next student presenter and talked about community service in the program.

Examples of community service from JROTC include several flag-raising events, handing out candy at Wright Park’s Boo at the Zoo and school campus cleanup events.

Rogers told the BOE that, over the weekend, cadets will be at the Western State Bank Expo Center helping make gingerbread houses for children.

“We’ve also donated food to the Mana House and $100 to Honduras for hurricane relief,” said Rogers. “The reason we do all of this community service is because it helps with bonding and just helping the community.”

Cadet Col. Sidney Aguilar, the group commander for unit KS-2021, told the BOE that she intends to continue ROTC in college, where she plans to pursue aeronautical engineering and hopes to become a second lieutenant in the Air Force.

“So, outside the military and career wise, I think JROTC has really helped me as a person,” said Aguilar.

She said she has been able to apply what she has learned in JROTC to her other work and in her community, and that it has helped her build relationships with her fellow cadets and teachers.

The BOE honored the Red Demon boys soccer team for winning the 6A state championship title.

BOE Chairman Lisa Killion read an except from an article on their win and the team was applauded at the meeting.

BOE passed 5-0 approval for the Transportation Department to solicit bids for one full-sized motorcoach activity bus, one Special Education route bus and two multifunction activity buses in place of the typical suburban replacements for their vehicle rotation.

There were no financial considerations as of now, but there will be when bid solicitations have been returned.

District director of safety and security Shawn Lampe in his COVID-19 report informed the BOE that as of 3:41 p.m. Dec. 14 there are currently three student and eight staff members that have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Our numbers have kind of stayed pretty low since Thanksgiving,” Lampe said. “It kind of felt like this would be about the time when we start seeing big numbers from Thanksgiving, but so far they’ve stayed down pretty well.”

Lampe told the BOE that while testing at the Western State Bank Expo Center is no longer under Ford County and National Guard supervision, they are still testing at the Ford County Health Department.

In partnership with GoGetTested, WellHealth, a primary clinic based out of Texas, was hired by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to set up a testing site at the Expo Center to supplant the National Guard.

Lampe said that while WellHealth does not offer rapid testing, there are still plenty of testing options in Dodge City, such as Gibson’s Pharmacy at 2401 Central Ave.

He added that he had been told that if USD 443 employees call ahead, then the Ford County Health Department will set up a prompt appointment to get tested.

After a brief mention by Superintendent of Schools Fred Dierksen, Lampe also informed the BOE that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the quarantine time for people that have been in close contact with positive cases not in the household has been shortened to seven to 10 days.

The seven-day quarantine is contingent on someone testing negative and showing no symptoms since being identified as being in proximity of a confirmed case.

The 10-day quarantine is the same procedure, just without being tested.

Ford County has since opted into these new guidelines, according to Lampe.

Within the classroom, procedures are still the same as before, with students remaining in the classroom due to continued mask and social-distancing protocols.

“Within the household, they are going to follow the seven- to 10-day quarantine rule if the positive case isolates from the rest of the family,” said Lampe. “So, if they can do that then they’ll do the seven to 10 days, if not then it continues just like it was before.”

There is not another USD 443 Board of Education meeting scheduled for the month of December.