In only four years, the Air Force ROTC program, Aerospace Science Leadership Academy (ASLA), at Prescott High School received a "distinguished" rating in its first official Air Force Inspection.
The Air Force conducted informal inspections for the past two years, but September's inspection was the real deal.
USAF Colonel Donald Bleche's inspection report determines if the Air Force continues to provide support for the cadet corps, or places it on probation with the possibility of withdrawing support.
The 104 PHS cadets had nothing to worry about during the inspection. Although Belche has not released his official report, everyone knew he was impressed with PHS program.
The Sept. 25 inspection included accountability for ASLA equipment, including uniforms, drill rifles and computers. He said ASLA distributed some of the computers received from the Air Force throughout PHS.
"The second year cadets had to perform a 30-step drill. It is a uniform drill pattern that every second year cadet should know," said Anthony McComack, ASLA vice commander.
Bleche attended a Senior Leadership Academy staff meeting with junior and senior cadets in positions of authority.
ASLA Commander, Caroline Van Dine and her senior cadets conduct the corps. During the meeting, Van Dine outlined the "state of ASLA" for Bleche, which included corps goals, teams, clubs, best practices and plans for the future.
ASLA's goals are threefold: cadet goals, school goals and community goals. The cadet goals include improving personal fitness and creating a training exercise program.
The school and community goals work hand in hand. ASLA will continue to raise money for the high school's Veteran's Memorial and the creation of a POW/MIA Memorial. In recognition of local veterans, ASLA is assisting Honor Flight, which flies World War II veterans, at no cost to them, to the new WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"We hope to raise enough money to send two WWII veterans to see the new memorial," Van Dine said.
ASLA also plans to "adopt" two local service organizations and assist with their programs and projects.
ASLA's Wing Man program is unique among ROTC programs. Third and fourth year cadets serve as mentors for the first and second year cadets.
ASLA senior cadets are working with local businesses to offer discounts to members of the Wing Man program.
Sgt. Cal Martintez, an ASLA instructor, said the mentoring program in Prescott stands out from other programs because it holds cadets accountable.
ASLA would like to add a state-approved career and technology education class and participate in the Mountain Institute Joint Technology Education District. The cadets also want to build a sport facility on the high school campus and create a leadership (obstacle) course to encourage team-building activities.
"Caroline would never say this, but Col. Belche said she ran the meeting just like any general," McComack said.
Belche, who inspects all ROTC programs from Texas to points west, told Martinez, "I would like to see instructors from other units come and see how things are run here."
Col. Denny Peeples had the original vision for the ROTC program at the high school. However, he takes little credit for the success of the program.
"The cadets did an amazing job. Caroline and Anthony prepared the cadets, putting in hours and hours of work," Peeples said. "They had to complete 30 pages of items that the Air Force expects in order to build better citizens of tomorrow."
Peeples said the "distinguished rating exceeded expectations. It re-validates the Air Force commitment to PHS for the future by continuing its support of its contract with the district to provide funding for uniforms, instructor salaries, trips, books and computers."
PHS Principal Totsy McCraley said the program "does too many things not to get a distinguished designation. Col. Belche was so impressed that our program is so student oriented"
The ROTC is not a military program, McCraley said. "It is a leadership program and what is nice is that our cadets are able to get solid core credits."
McCraley gives all the credit for the success of the program to Peeples.
"Col. Peeples is the true visionary behind the program. There are so many things he wants to accomplish that are wonderful for the scope of the program. He wants it to be beneficial. The students are not there to learn about the military. They are there to learn leadership and self-discipline," McCraley said.