By Bill Tamburrino
Under the leadership of retired U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr/ Mike Ernst and retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Bob Richardson, Ramona High School’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps has received the Distinguished Unit Award, the highest honor a high school NJROTC unit is awarded.
“There are over 620 NJROTC units in the nation and only 30 percent can earn the award,” said Ernst. “It’s awarded for a year. During that year the cadets can wear the ribbon that goes with the award. The ribbon can only be worn while the unit is a Distinguished Unit. This is the first time that Ramona High School has earned that honor.”
The award is for overall excellence. All aspects of NJROTC are taken into consideration: drill, academics, orienteering, marksmanship, orientation visits, community service, and local, regional and national competitions. Ramona was the Navy champion and took fourth place out of 427 teams in the nation in Cyber Warfare.
The unit’s community service was commendable, and no task was too menial for the Bulldogs’ unit. Last year alone they dug up the sprinkling system on the baseball field to help install a new system.
They volunteered at the Country Fair to pick up trash. They volunteered at numerous activities at the Ramona VFW including Poppy sales. They have helped clean up trash on Main Street. The unit also provides a color guard at RHS and community events.
“Where there is a need, we will serve,” said Ernst. “Two years ago we received an honorary award for taking over 40 students to Hawaii for an orientation visit. We were supposed to go to Hawaii this spring, but all of the transport aircraft were being used to fly relief to Japan. Instead we took an orientation trip to the Reagan Library, Universal Studios, Hollywood, Venice Beach, and dinner at Medieval Times.
“The Reagan Library was outstanding. They have an Air Force One to tour, a replica of the Oval Office, pieces of the Berlin Wall, and Knute Rockne’s letterman sweater (Reagan played “The Gipper,” George Gipp, in the “Knute Rockne All American.”).”
It was a great educational activity,” said Ernst.
“We also saw some real characters at Venice Beach,” joked Ernst.
Upon returning from the spring trip, the unit received word of the Distinguished Unit Award. In the five-year tenure of Ernst and Richardson, Ramona was the most Improved Unit in the Nation in 2008 and has earned the second highest award, the Unit Achievement Award, three times.