THE Marianas High School Dolphin Battalion underwent an inspection by the U.S. Army on Monday morning.

The 302nd Quartermaster Company, Detachment 1 conducted a mock Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Program for Accreditation, or JPA, inspection, covering every aspect of the school’s program to ensure compliance with minimum program criteria.

Public School System Senior Director for Student Support Services Bonnie Pangelinan said, “JPA accreditation for our JROTC program was actually waived because of Covid-19, but the Dolphin Battalion was really proactive in wanting to stay ahead of assessment.”

Cadets presented on their continuous improvement plan, or CIP, and provided updates on their service learning projects as well.

The CIP is an annual project required of every battalion, in which staff members and battalion top three identify and address a prevalent issue within the battalion and work on a long-term solution.

The Dolphin Battalion shared that walking into the new school year, they had great plans for their CIP, centering it on raising and maintaining cadets’ grade point averages, or GPA, to above a 3.0.

They chose this as their CIP because it is one of the most reliable ways to evaluate the academic excellence and progress of students.

The intent was to improve the school’s overall GPA, and ultimately prepare the cadets for life after high school, whether they decide to take on the military track or not.

However, this CIP proved to be a challenge as the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic forced students to adapt and adjust to fluctuating school guidelines.

On February 2, all public schools transitioned from remote learning to blended learning, dividing students into two cohorts, with a maximum of 15 students per classroom.

Still, the battalion was adamant about working towards their goal of developing in each cadet good citizenship, leadership potential, communication skills, improved physical fitness, and higher self-esteem.

They identified 38 cadets who requested assistance with raising their GPA, and after receiving consent from cadets and their parents, partnered up with the Northern Marianas College ROTC and National Honors Society student tutors to assist the cadets who were struggling with their academics.

Measuring their progress through Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Timely Goals, or SMART Goals, the cadets divided students into two groups and monitored their progress.

From the inception of the project to this month, four of six cadets who had less than a 3.0 GPA now have at least a 3.0 GPA.

The overall battalion GPA has risen from a 3.5 in October 2020 to a 3.64 in February 2021.

In addition to this CIP, the battalion had a company work together to raise awareness of the Covid-19 best practices and guidelines, as provided by federal and state governments.

Students created and shared videos of how to do the 3 W’s: wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.

Other companies addressed other issues relevant to students, such as how to not procrastinate.

The battalion also partnered with Francisco M. Sablan Middle School to speak to eight graders about high school and about the JROTC program.

Senior Director for Student Support Services Bonnie Pangelinan, for her part, commended the Dolphin Battalion, most notably for their efforts to raise cadets’ GPAs and to reach out to middle school students.

 “I really want to commend them for actually taking on a CIP… I think the cadets really took on a great challenge that is something that is needed in the school system: looking at the learning gaps, especially gaps from pre-Covid-19 to post-Covid-19, and taking on that leadership role of assisting in the battalion. They wanted to do their little part in helping to bridge those learning gaps,” she said.

She added, “A very lofty goal, as they learned, is not as easy as it seems, but they’re still really pushing forward to make it happen. I’m really impressed with the performance today. I’m impressed with the support from their school leadership and especially their JROTC instructors. I don’t think anything is going to stop this battalion from performing, even Covid-19.”

Following their presentation, cadets underwent a formal Color Guard evaluation and Army In Ranks inspection, highlighting general knowledge questions, as well as questions on various cadet and army ranks and guidelines.

The Dolphin Battalion is led by Commander C/LTC Jose Reyes, Executive Officer C/MAJ Jessica Liu, Command Sgt. Major C/CSM Teody Valenzuela, Adjutant Officer C/CPT Denzel Gatbonton, Security & Intelligence Officer C/CPT Jaibelle Nelmida, Training and Operations Officer C/MAJ Eejai Metran, Supply and Logistics Officer C/CPT Allan Arcega, Supply and Logistics Officer C/CPT Kristine Briones, and Public Affairs Officer C/CPT Christina Kim.

Army Instructor SFC Albert Lujan, for his part, noted that not a lot of schools in the brigade were able to follow through with the evaluation and inspection.

He said Covid-19 guidelines make it difficult for the over 60 cadets in the MHS Dolphin Battalion to all meet in-person to prepare.

SFC Lujan explained that the battalion aims for the distinguished Gold Star with every inspection.

 “That’s a huge weight on the leaders and the seniors because losing it on their tenure would be very detrimental, so it’s really important,” he said.

For students considering joining the program, SFC Lujan said, “From the outside, people think that we’re an extreme breed of people that run around rappelling off of buildings, but that’s not the case. We’re really academic-minded… We are structural, but we have a lot of respect for the kids.”

Board of Education Vice Chairman and retired SGM Herman Atalig commended the battalion for following through with the inspection despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s my understanding that they’re the only unit that is really on top of preparing their unit to be ready at any time when there’s inspection coming from the brigade,” he said.

“These kids are awesome [for] taking time off and preparing for all of this. This is about accreditation… These folks here, from the instructor to the chain of command, that initiative is there, deep down, from their motivation to do what is right [to] their inner desire to be the best.”

“I think just watching [and] observing, I have to give the MHS Dolphins a big ‘hooah.’ These kids here are very disciplined,” he added.

Atalig is a former senior Army instructor at Rutgers University and a former Army instructor at Rota High School.

BOE Chairman Andrew L. Orsini as well as MHS administrators were also present for the JPA.

Battalion Commander Reyes said, “With the strains of [Covid-19] it was pretty difficult, but we had our instructor behind us, backing us up, pushing us towards our goal.”

He said the battalion staff worked fervently to work towards the battalion’s goals, on top of their traditional schoolwork.

In addition to their core curriculum, cadets also learn proper drill and ceremony, first aid, financial planning, map reading, navigation, and  perform at school and community ceremonies.

For students considering joining the program, Reyes said, “Don’t be intimidated. When you actually come here, it’s fun. It’s a lot of hands-on [work]. You communicate with other people and you work together… You’re gaining a family within the school, and that’s pretty amazing.”

Junior Reporter

K-Andrea is a Gates Millennium Scholar who earned her bachelor of arts degree in political science from St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. Since joining the MV team in Feb. 2020, she has been covering the political, environmental, and community beats.

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