Written by: 1SG (Ret.) Christopher Watts
ANCHORAGE, AK — The 2022-2023 school year at East Anchorage High School in JROTC has been a stellar year for individual accomplishments and personal goal achievements. Cadets Iparraguirre, Lo, Mast, Burger, Cabotutan, Yang, and Swetzof were all inducted into the National Honor Society this year, matching induction numbers from the 2016 school year which set a battalion record for NHS inductees into the JROTC program at East. Motivated and smart! The achievements did not stop there, however.
In a Facebook Post submitted by the Anchorage Fire Department Explorers Program, the following short note was submitted on her behalf: “The Anchorage Fire Explorers would like to shine a spotlight on Explorer Erin Gates. In addition to being an Explorer, Erin is a Cadet in the AJROTC Thunderbird Battalion at East High School. Erin was recently promoted from Cadet Lieutenant Colonel (shown in the picture) to Cadet Colonel, which is the highest rank a cadet can hold nationwide! Erin will be graduating in May and aspires to obtain a position as a Student Firefighter for a fire dept in Fairbanks, while she attends the University of Alaska, Fairbanks full-time. Erin’s ultimate goal is to return home and gain employment as a firefighter/paramedic with the Anchorage Fire Department. Congratulations Cadet Colonel Gates, we are VERY proud of you!!!”
Cadet Gates has been a remarkable asset to the Thunderbird Battalion. Her availability and willingness to place the needs of the program sometimes above the need to emulate the true meaning of Selfless Service and dedication to duty. Cadet Gates always demonstrated a sincere appreciation for her fellow Cadets and extremely effective methods of leadership and followership techniques.
Her journey started in 2019 as a first-year JROTC competition Unarmed Regulation Platoon Commander as she and her team placed first in the JROTC State Drill Meet held annually at Service High School. Cadet Gates rapidly was recognized for her leadership potential and was assigned additional duties as the assistant to the Battalion Administrative Officer, at the time Kaleah Graham, and eventually took over the position full-time for her junior year. Cadet Gate’s extremely efficient and highly professional results led her to her selection as Company Commander towards the end of her junior year. Again, great intuition and a highly motivated approach to performing her duties led to her eventual selection as battalion commander.
Erin’s most noteworthy service to the community was during a training “Ride Along” where the trainees actually participate in firefighter duties. On February 23rd, 2023 at 8:30 PM while on duty with the crew of Station 4 Cadet Gates assisted in providing CPR to an unresponsive young lady at an Anchorage Midtown complex with another firefighter. After reviving the patient in an initial round of CPR the lady fell back into cardiac arrest. Cadet Gates reinitiated CPR and the lady became responsive once more. She remained responsive during transport to the hospital. Cadet Gates described the incident as harrowing and exhilarating all at the same time, but she pointed out that her training was a crucial aspect of this event and that without it the young lady in peril would have certainly gotten worse.
1SG Watts has always told Cadets that “I’ll Make You Famous” (Emilio Estevez “Young Guns”) being in JROTC at East. But none of that can happen if you do not make yourself available and are willing to put yourself in a position to be recognized. Cadet Gates will graduate from her Explorer training and is seeking to further her path to full-fledged firefighter this summer at the Fairbanks Training Facility. Talent goes a long way but the difference maker is effort and courage. Nice job “Firefighter Gates!”