10 Pages Vol.13, No. 5 January 2000
--INSIDE THIS ISSUE--
Published monthly by the
MMA PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE
320 Iwo Jima Blvd.
Harlingen, Texas 78550
PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER
Robert A. Beckley
Connie G. Flores
A red-letter day on each MMA cadet’s calendar is the annual Marine Corps JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) inspection by the 8th Marine Corps District office in New Orleans, held this year on 3 December.
The district inspects all 40 units within its six- state region once a year to make sure they are complying with JROTC standards as set forth by Headquarters Marine Corps.
MMA usually does very well in the inspection, but this year it was even better, with the Corps of Cadets receiving the highest grade of “outstanding” in all seven of the inspection areas.
Cadets were graded on their personal appearance, military knowledge and leadership ability. With each company wearing a different type of uniform, judges made sure shoes were shined, shirts were pressed, and cuffs were the proper length. Inspectors looked for such discrepancies as loose threads or improperly displayed rank insignia. They asked cadets questions such as their definition of leadership, or who is the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. They also observed platoons from each company performing close order drill. They even inspected the record keeping of the Academy’s military staff to make sure all paperwork is being properly filed and procedures are being followed.
In their written comments inspectors concluded, “Marine Military Academy was very impressive during the inspection. The cadets showed great bearing during the high winds. The Academy remains as one of the top schools in the 8th MCD.”
Operations chief GySgt Larry Wisnoski said a great deal of preparation went into this year’s inspection, which obviously paid off.
“To ensure the cadets were ready, the DIs conducted their preliminary inspections, then the commandant of cadets made his, and then the chief of staff even made an inspection, himself,” Wisnoski said. “There was a great deal more command interest in this inspection than in the past, and I’m absolutely positive it improved the performance of the troops by showing them that everybody was concerned with their performance. It was a job very well done, and I’m sure the cadets are justifiably proud knowing they contributed to this team effort.”
Even the Academy’s academic department became part of the preparation team. Starting at the beginning of the school year, teachers took a few minutes each class to questions cadets on their military knowledge.
“The Commandant and I got together and I asked how I could help,” Dean Neal Meier said. “He told me what I could do, and it seems to have worked. It’s an excellent example of what can happen with cooperation.”
Another commendable result of the inspection was that just over half of the Corps of Cadets were recognized by the judges for having zero discrepancies. Historically at MMA, that number is closer to 25%.
The judges also recognized Delta Company for having the best platoon in close order drill.
In November, it was announced that three MMA cadets had been selected to receive NROTC scholarships, with Marine options.
They are Cadet Captains Jonathan Pax of McAllen, Texas, Thomas Duff, of Corpus Christi, and Matt Freeman of Sanger, Texas.
Their selections were among five that the Marine Reserve Station in San Antonio had to offer in all of South Texas.
“The fact that MMA cadets received 60% of the available scholarships is pretty remarkable,” said MMA assistant commandant of cadets LtCol Gary Andresen, USMC (Ret), “and we have the potential for six to nine more cadets to go before another selection board when it meets in February.”
Selections are based on academic performance, participation in high school activities, community involvement and a physical fitness test.
“These three guys all had high PFT scores, which involves a three-mile run, sit-ups and pull-ups,” Andresen said. “They’re also all Eagle Scouts, which is a biggie, and they’re top scholars. They’re the personification of the whole young man, which is precisely what the Marine Corps is looking for.”
Pax and Duff are both company commanders at the Academy. Freeman is a member of the battalion staff.
The benefits of a NROTC scholarship include full tuition, textbooks, fees and a $150 a month subsistence allowance at any of the 64 universities nationwide that have a NROTC program.
Students are required to complete various military training sessions each summer, and upon graduation, accept a commission and serve four years of active duty in the Marine Corps.
One of the many tragedies that occurred during the Texas A&M bonfire accident in November was the loss of one of the Academy’s most outstanding alumni, Christopher Lee Heard.
The four-year MMA cadet and ‘99 graduate, was one of 12 people to die when a 40-foot high stack of logs being built for the traditional Aggie bonfire before the Texas football game came crashing down, 18 Nov.
The loss of Heard was made even more painful for MMA cadets and staff because, just two weeks earlier, he had been back at the Academy to visit with his many friends during the school’s Birthday Ball Weekend.
Those at MMA remember Heard as an excellent cadet in every sense. He arrived at the school during the midterm of his freshman year and quickly rose through the ranks, being promoted to sergeant in just his second semester. By his senior year he was named commander of Alpha Company, the highest ranking cadet in the company. He was also a member of the school’s National Honor Society and swimming team.
Academically, Heard was near the top of his class, receiving at his graduation the American Legion Bronze Medal for Scholastic Excellence, as well as the MMA Alumni Outstanding Senior Award.
“He had the maturity and common sense of someone 25 years old,” said Heard’s drill instructor, MGySgt Jim Hager, USMC (Ret). “Other kids flocked to him for advice. If you could have a role model for younger cadets to emulate, Heard was your guy. He was intelligent, compassionate and funny.”
Heard had aspirations of possibly being a Navy SEAL commando like his father, and had come to MMA with that goal in mind.
“Even as a ninth grader he knew what he was going to do,” Hager said. “He wanted to attend Texas A&M on a full scholarship, and felt MMA was the best way to get there.”
The funeral service for Heard was held 21 Nov. in Katy, Texas, near Houston. It was attended by Hager, MMA chaplain of cadets Capt Alfred Clark, USN (Ret) and a large number of former and current cadets.
“It was one of the longest funerals I’ve ever attended,” Clark said. “They had an open eulogy that took close to an hour and a half. A lot of people wanted to talk about Chris. He was full of life and fun-loving. He left a lot of footprints.”
At the request of the family, a Christopher Lee Heard Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established at MMA. Those wishing to make donations can contact the Academy’s Institutional Advancement Department.
It should be a natural fit. The goal of MMA is to develop a young boy into a responsible young man. The Boy Scouts teaches boys to be, among other things, kind, obedient and trustworthy.
Perhaps the similarities explain why, at the Marine Military Academy, the Boy Scout program has become the single largest activity offered to cadets. This year there are 90 participants, or more than one fourth of the Corps of Cadets. MMA’s Troop 22 has become the largest of the 50 troops in the Rio Grande Valley.
A school-record seven Academy cadets this year will likely achieve Eagle Scout status. Two - Jonathan Pax and Benjamin Curd -received their Eagle Badges during a Boy Scouts Court of Honor in October. Five other cadets are currently working to complete their requirements. To reach this pinnacle in Scouting, a boy must earn a minimum of 21 merit badges, he must participate in several leadership positions within the troop, and he must complete a significant community involvement project, all before his 18th birthday. The fact that only about 2% of all Scouts ever make Eagle Scout makes the MMA numbers even more impressive.
Part of the program’s success can be explained by the similarities between the Academy and Scouting. But another important factor could be that MMA’s scout master also happens to be executive director of the entire Rio Grande Valley Council.
Steve Gerber, a 30-year Scouting veteran, first became involved with MMA in 1998 when he assisted former scout master Brenden Osuchowski with an Eagle Scout project. A few months later, when Osuchowski left the Academy, Gerber took his place. At the time there were less than 30 cadets in the program.
“The growth has been remarkable, but I’m not really surprised,” Gerber said. “If you look at the mission and purposes of the Boy Scouts of America, and the mission and purposes of MMA, they’re totally compatible. Boy Scouts is the perfect supplement to the training and education that MMA cadets receive. Most of the really good military schools around the country have similar Scouting programs.
“It helps that at MMA we’re getting a lot of support from the top,” Gerber added. “Colonel Myers, the commandant, is chairman of our adult involvement committee, Dean Meier tells me he believes Scouting improves academics, and General Rollings and Colonel Hill are there passing out badges at every Court of Honor. When you have that level of attention, it tells parents and cadets just how compatible MMA and Scouting are.”
Troop 22 meets every Tuesday night at the Academy. The time is used to work on merit badges, award badges, and occasionally hear guest speakers. About once a month there is a camp-out at either nearby Camp Perry or South Padre Island. Gerber also organizes field trips. Last month he took Scouts to the Cameron County Courthouse in Brownsville to witness a criminal trial, which helps them fulfill their law badge requirements.
For those who think of the Boy Scouts as just camp fires and knot tying, Gerber said the program has expanded in recent years to include more varied interests. There are now 119 different badges available. Scouts still pursue traditional badges, such as first aid and archery. But, there are now badges in such areas as graphic arts, theater and truck transportation.
“The Boy Scouts turns 90 next year, and what keeps it interesting is its variety,” Gerber said. “We’ve always had the image of helping little old ladies across the street, but were so much more than that. There are thousands of grown adults who would tell you they found their careers through earning merit badges.”
Gerber points out that the vast majority of NASA astronauts were at one time Boy Scouts, and that no less than 12% of the U.S. Naval Academy and West Point acceptances are Eagle Scouts.
“When a boy participates in this program, certain values are transmitted at a very important stage in his life, that will hopefully stay with him a lifetime,” he said. “When a Scout pledges he’ll be clean, loyal and helpful enough times, some of it’s bound to rub off.”
It began as a project of the MMA National Honor Society. Today, it's one of the largest HOSTS (Helping One Student To Succeed) programs in the country.
Each week throughout the school year, approximately 100 MMA cadets donate a half-hour of their time to tutor first- and second-grade children at three Harlingen elementary schools.
On 1 Dec., several national executives with the HOSTS Corporation were in the Rio Grande Valley to thank both cadets and the many Academy staff members who help organize and participate in the program. Those representatives from HOSTS included Dr. Chad Woolery, the corporation's CEO, and Sheila Tretter, the chief operating officer. Also present were various local HOSTS coordinators and HCISD educators, including Donna Jarman, Director of Special Projects for the district, and Tricia Morrow, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education.
The HOSTS delegation was given a tour of the Academy's facilities, then hosted at a luncheon in the Academy's Neuhaus Messhall, attended by all 96 cadet volunteers. Also present were MMA teacher Lorraine Loyan, who currently supervises the Academy's HOSTS participation, and teacher Lori Murray, who first organized the program at MMA seven years ago.
“From an educational standpoint the one-on-one tutoring is ideal for our students,” said Debbie Hardin, HOSTS coordinator with the Harlingen ISD. “MMA cadets are excellent role models. Our kids are always impressed when these big guys in uniforms walk into the room.”
HOSTS was founded in Vancouver, Washington in 1971 with several mentors and one reading instructor. Today it has over 1,000 programs in 41 states, with over 60,000 students and 90,000 volunteer mentors.
ON 9 December, MMA hosted its 20th annual Christmas party for boys and girls from children’s homes in the Rio Grande Valley. Over 80 young guests were escorted by cadets to performances by the MMA band and silent drill team, followed by dinner in the Academy messhall. Afterwards, Santa passed out presents. Shown escorting one of the boys is Fox Company cadet Michael Toraya-Diaz from Merida, Mexico.
Former Alpha and Delta Company cadets who take a look in their old barracks buildings might be amazed at what they find.
For starters all interior doors, including those to the rooms and bathrooms, have been replaced with metal fireproof doors and frames.
The bathrooms have been completed overhauled with new tile and shower pans. There’s also new plumbing and electrical wiring.
Both the inside and outside of the barracks have been repainted, and all carpeted areas have received new carpet.
In keeping with government regulations, the first floors of the barracks have been remodeled to accommodate handicap access. The window systems have also been reworked.
The same renovations that Alpha and Delta received are scheduled for three more barracks buildings in the upcoming year.
Anyone who would like to help fund the remodeling of any of the barracks can have their names placed on a plaque for everyone to see. It makes a great gift for parents who want to let their son know they are still proud of his accomplishments.
Not very many of us have an opportunity to be remembered by hundreds of others who will follow in our footsteps. If you would like more information on how to add your name, the name of a son, or someone else you feel deserves recognition, please call (956) 423-6006, ext. 232.
The MMA basketball program has been on the way up in recent years. The Leathernecks were 25-4 last season, and a remarkable 73-18 the last three years.
Most of that time, MMA was the No. 1 ranked private school team in the state, and also had a home-court winning streak of 34 games, a school record.
New Leatherneck coach Shawn Jones, who replaces Matt Herting, looks forward to continuing that momentum, but he’ll have to do it without good deal of last year’s team. Six seniors graduated from the program, including the Leathernecks’ top three scorers and two leading rebounders.
Only one starter returns, junior guard Kalen Mahoney. Also back is 6-foot-10, 235-pound senior post player Will Sherling, who enrolled at MMA at midterm last year. Another returner is reserve senior guard Joey Masterpool. The rest of the Leathernecks are new to the program.
“We’ll be a totally different team from the last few seasons under Coach Herting,” Jones said. “We don’t have the high-flying athletes those teams had. What we have instead are kids who will have to play hard and work together. Everything they get, they’ll earn. We’ll be methodical and try to take great shots and play great defense.”
A good deal of the Leatherneck attack this year will be built around Sherling, whose size has already attracted the attention of college coaches. In November, he signed a letter of intent to play basketball next year with a full scholarship at Lehigh University.
“Will is a force inside, and could quickly develop into one of the premiere post players in the state,” Jones said. “He’s a very good offensive player, and his defensive skills are improving.”
The Leathernecks should be in pretty solid shape at guard where Mahoney and talented newcomer Tyronn Mitchell will start.
“Mahoney is probably our most versatile player,” Jones said. “He has the quickness to play guard, but is also strong enough to play some forward. He’s a sensational scorer and great defender.
“Mitchell is the quarterback of our offense. He’s a great point guard who handles pressure very well.”
Those two starters will be backed up at the guard position by Masterpool and junior Seth Shockley.
At forward, the Leathernecks will start two juniors, 6-3 Chris Braziel and 6-2 Brew Sivakumar.
“Braziel has been a great surprise coming out of football,” Jones said. “He’s a physical player and great rebounder with incredible hands.
“Sivakumar has been another surprise. He’s an excellent shooter when he gets his feet set, and has a great attitude. He’s very coachable and will do anything you ask him to.”
Also seeing time at forward for the Leathernecks will be 6-3 sophomore Adrian Lash and 6-3 senior Jason Brown.
Jones comes to the Academy from Del Norte High School in Colorado where he was a head coach the past four years. Each of those seasons his team reached the state regionals, and twice it played in the final four.
Jones, whose father was also a high school basketball coach, has some very clear ideas about the lessons he wants to teach his Leathernecks.
“First,” he said, “you must have class, which is the way you conduct yourself in everything you do, from the way you dress to your speech. It says who you are.
“Second, you must play with pride, which is beliving in what you’re doing and what you’re working for. But at the same time, pride should not be confused with arrogance.
“Third, you must have desire, which means doing whatever you’re doing as well as you can, while focusing on the present, not the past.”
One thing that hasn’t changed much for the Academy this season is its schedule. MMA will continue to play top tournaments, and some of the best public and private school teams in the state, including Dallas Carter, Dallas Madison, Corpus Christi Carroll and many of the Rio Grande Valley teams.
Assisting Jones with running the Leatherneck program this year will be the JV coach, Eric Maynard.
MAJOR GENERAL W.L Nyland, USMC (L) is introduced to the Corps of Cadets by MMA’s President Rollings, 9 Dec. Nyland, Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, based at Cherry Point, N.C., spoke to cadets about the current capabilities and structure of air combat forces in the Marine Corps. On 20 Nov., MajGen R.R. Blackman, Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C., gave a similar briefing to cadets about ground combat elements. “These lectures were an unbelievable experience for the cadets,” said MMA’s LtCol Gary Andresen, assistant commandant of cadets. “Reading about it in books is one thing, but when a commanding general of these elements gives a personal briefing, that really makes an impression.”
John Shimer (L) and Peter Hobbs, both from the class of ‘96, were at the ball.
One of last year’s cadets, Orrin Battle, visits with Mrs. Myers, the commandant’s wife.
Two ‘99 grads, Jonathan Shirley and Ross Kyger.
Granville C. Armstrong - USMC WWII
Mrs. William Burgin - MMA Mom ‘98
Capt Henry N. (Newt) Burgin, USMC
Senator John Chaffee
Dr. James Duff - MMA Dad
Lawrence H. Eckenfels
Col Leslie Gilson, USMC (Ret)
Christopher Lee Heard - MMA ‘99
Paul E. Miller
CWO O. Douglas Sayre, USMC (Ret)
Houston I. Sepolio
Marvin T. Treadwell
Bud Wasko - USMC WWII
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