JROTC Yellowjacket Battalion celebrates its fourth Change of Command
Five cadets recognized in special presentation:
DANA COLE, HERALD/REVIEW
Thu, 04/23/2015 - 8:12pm
TOMBSTONE — Cadet 1st Lt. Brandon Leslie holds the distinction of Tombstone High School’s first Junior Officer Training Corps member to sign up for the school’s JROTC program when it first started four years ago.
When he graduates in May, Leslie will be among the first group of the school’s graduates with eight semesters of JROTC.
Leslie is one of 89 cadets that participated in the high school’s fourth JROTC Change of Command and Award Ceremony Wednesday, where outgoing commander Cadet Col. Katie Scott ceremoniously transferred the Battalion Guidon to Cadet Maj. Nick Belvin, who is stepping in as the new commander.
Along with nearly 40 awards presented during the ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Gross, the battalion’s senior army instructor, held a special presentation recognizing five cadets who took part in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March on March 22, 2015, in White Sands, NM.
During the marathon march, the five stopped to help another Death March participant — the daughter of a WWII Bataan Defender and Prisoner of War — when she fell and sustained a fractured wrist near mile 15 of the 26-mile trek. While the woman wishes to remain anonymous, she wrote a moving letter of thanks to the cadets, which was read by Gross as a special presentation during the change of command ceremony. In addition, each cadet was given a $200 check as a token of her appreciation, along with a $640 donation to the Yellowjacket Battalion.
In her letter, the woman personally thanks cadets Nick Belvin, Sara Sizemore, Isabella Wells, Sean Mullins and Jon Wallace for their “kindness and selflessness” for stopping to help her.
“As a (Death March) participant for my ninth year, I know that times and finish results do matter,” she said in the letter. “You put those thoughts and goals aside as you took precious minutes to assist me.” She goes on to say, “You demonstrated that the true spirit of Bataan lives on and is not forgotten. As your team in yellow tees and another stranger in white helped me to my feet, I experienced something of what Bataan Defenders came to know.”
The woman’s letter and special presentation by Gross in recognition of the cadets stood out as one of the ceremony’s highlights.
The THS Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps was established in May 2011. Along with Gross, retired Army Master Sgt. Daniel Kilpatrick is an instructor. The Yellowjacket Battalion consists of three companies and in four short years, has a list of accolades to its credit. The program boasts one of two mounted JROTC color guard units in the country, with the group invited to participate in numerous parades throughout Arizona, to include the Fiesta Bowl Parade. In addition, the battalion’s Raiders Team competes in meets locally as well as other states, while the Cyber-Patriot team finished second in a national competition. Under Scott’s command, the battalion held a military ball, a leadership reaction course and several filed trips. The Yellowjacket Battalion also competed in an Army-Navy flag football game and presented the colors in a nationally televised NFL football game at the Cardinal stadium in Glendale. And there was the afore-mentioned Bataan Memorial Death March, a 26-mile marathon through the New Mexico desert.
As part of his concluding remarks, Gross had the 13 senior cadets stand and be recognized as he offered personalized stories about each one, describing how every cadet contributed to the program and how those individual contributions will be missed.
For Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Talon Bramley, Gross praised his service with the battalion, stating, “Whoever comes in as the new command sergeant major has big shoes to fill.” Bramley is one of the graduates with plans of pursuing a career in the military and has already enlisted in the U.S. Army. He will be departing for boot camp not long after graduation in May.
“By far the toughest position in the command is filled by the battalion commander,” said Gross, while praising Scott’s role as the program’s leader. “I could not ask for a better battalion commander than Katie Scott,” he added. He also spoke of how Scott swore she never wanted to go into the military, but her years in JROTC changed that. She will be attending New Mexico State University on a JROTC scholarship.
“If my daughters grow up just like her, I will be proud,” Gross said.
During her address, Scott spoke of how the JROTC program opened doors for her and gave her a solid foundation for college. “I am so happy I came into this program, full force and ready to go,” she said.
As he steps in as the new battalion commander, Belvin said he looks forward to building on the principals of leadership that were started by those who served before him. “We have a great program here and I’m proud to be a part of this group of cadets,” he said.
The following is a letter that was read by Senior Army Instructor Retired Warrant Officer Thomas Gross during Wednesday’s Change of Command Ceremony at Tombstone High School. It should be noted that in some cases, the ranks of the five cadets are different than how they are cited in the letter, as some have been promoted.
Dear C/SSG Nick Belvin C/1LT Sara Sizemore, C/SGT Isabella Wells, C/SSG Sean Mullins, and C/CPL Jon Wallace:
This letter can only attempt to express my gratitude, and convey the significance of your team’s action “somewhere” past mile 14, nearing mile 15 at the 26th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March on Sunday, March 22, 2015 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
Clearly, you all know that kindness and selflessness are not just words. Indeed, these virtues are so much a part of your character that you did not even mention your action to your Senior Instructor. However, what you have humbly perceived as simply an ordinary act, has an immeasurable magnitude of meaning to me.
I am quite familiar with that course, and I know the physical fatigue that sets in by mile 12 and that it gets worse with still more climbs ahead.. Your team members disregarded their own physical and mental condition to stop and help a stranger. Having stumbled and fallen, I wasn’t even sitting upright. I was completely down on the ground in a semi-prone position with a 38 lb. pack on. Pulling me up was not an easy feat, and surely it tapped your own, much needed physical reserves.
As a participant for my 9th year, I know that times and finish results do matter. You put those thoughts and goals aside as you took precious minutes to assist me.
As a Bataan Defender’s descendant, for me, completing the course is imperative. Your assistance helped renew my spirit, and in fact physically continue in a way that I would fully comprehend only afterward. I had unknowingly sustained a fractured wrist when I fell. I could’ve made it far worse if I had made repeated attempts to push myself to my feet, and, had I caused further damage the pain would’ve been much greater and I doubt that I could’ve finished.
You demonstrated that the true spirit of Bataan lives on and is not forgotten. As your team in yellow tees and another stranger in white helped me to my feet, I experienced something of what Bataan Defenders came to know.
I crossed that finish line my 9th time because of your “simple” yet exemplary behavior.
It is hoped that this letter demonstrates that your dedication to selfless service does not go unnoticed. May it further acknowledge the support you have received from friends, family, educators and leaders; their contribution and support cannot be overlooked.
Please accept the enclosed as a small token and testament to your fine character. May its purpose be as you so choose.
With utmost respect and eternal gratitude,
the daughter of a WWII Sgt. 200/515th C. A. Battery D, Bataan Defender/POW.
Outgoing Commander Cadet Col. Katie Scott and incoming Commander Cadet Maj. Nick Belvin share a moment before Wednesday's Tombstone High School Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps change of command and award ceremony at the Herman Fischer Gymnasium.
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