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MHS Marine Corps JROTC Earns Prestigious Naval Honor School Award

Article|
Shane Mauldin|
Friday, September 8, 2023
The McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC program has earned one of the highest awards bestowed upon a JROTC battalion—the title of Naval Honor School.

The McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC program has earned one of the highest awards bestowed upon a JROTC battalion—the title of Naval Honor School.

McKinney, Texas – For 9 years, retired U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer–3 Ron “Gunner” McPhatter has served as the senior instructor of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC (MHS MCJROTC) program. During his tenure, 12 MHS cadets have earned collegiate ROTC scholarships, and the unit has compiled an impressive list of accolades.

Now, the MCJROTC has added a major achievement to its resume by earning one of the highest awards bestowed upon a JROTC battalion—the title of Naval Honor School.

McPhatter smiling and doing pushups with the cadets

U.S. Marine Corps CWO-3 (Ret.) Ron “Gunner” McPhatter leads cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC program through a round of push ups.

“Earning this distinction means that the McKinney High School MCJROTC program has been identified as one of the elite programs within our seven state region as well as across the country,” says McPhatter. “Winning this distinction is not easy, as McKinney is in the most competitive region with top-notch programs in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas and Alabama.”

As he observes a class of cadets slogging through fitness training on the MHS football field, McPhatter adds that there are about 60 units in the region, and about 8 in the North Texas area. He would be the first to tell you that the success the MHS unit has achieved under his leadership hasn’t been accomplished in isolation. He’s had assistance over the years first from Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Trish Ramos, then Gunnery Sergeant Gary Porter, Jr. and currently Sergeant Major Don Hernandez.

In addition, McPhatter says that those other MCJROTC units in the area provide a strong support network for one another. “We all work together,” he says. “That’s one of the beautiful things about North Texas. Even though we have our own identity as McKinney High School—and we have our rivalries—all the schools work together for the same benefit of the students. So, it’s a good network to be part of.”

cadets in PT uniforms doing bear crawls

McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC cadets take part in physical fitness training.

A broad range of criteria is assessed when a school is considered for the Naval Honor School Award:

  • Student Enrollment
  • Student Activities (School and Unit Activities, Clubs and Student Leadership)
  • Community Service
  • Academic Awards
  • Public Affairs Events
  • Scholarships and Enlistments
  • Competitions (Drill Teams, Color Guard, Physical Fitness, Academics and Marksmanship)
  • Program of Instruction (Events in which curriculum is taught or advanced)

The MHS MCJROTC program’s success has been forged through years of consistent dedication and hard work, with McPhatter and his assistant instructors putting in countless hours before and after school and on weekends at fitness and drill competitions.

Leadership is one of the primary goals of the program, and McPhatter says that he and Hernandez teach the kids it by example. “And, we want to see them setting the example for other students. But, we have to model that ourselves. I had kids here at 5:30 this morning to work out,” says McPhatter.

Hernandez adjusting the cover for a cadet during uniform inspection

Sergeant Major Don Hernandez adjusts a cadet’s cover during uniform inspection to demonstrate the proper angle.

Indeed, as the class completes its primary physical fitness task, McPhatter and Hernandez circle them up for a quick debrief, and then the pair are on the turf cranking out push ups and sweating alongside the cadets to finish out the class.

The next day, Hernandez is performing the first uniform inspection of the year, and he is straightforward with the cadets as they stand at attention. When they get it right, he praises them. When there is room for improvement he tells them to keep working on it, as he makes notes on his clipboard. He moves down the line eyeing salutes and correcting them, evaluating the execution of an about face and on the lookout for uniform irregularities.

The pursuit of excellence begins with the small things. “If you take care of the little things,” Hernandez tells them, “then, I know you’re taking care of the bigger things. Attention to detail. Take your time to get it done right.”

And, the MCJROTC program has been doing things right for a long time.

“This title was earned due to the efforts, diligence and sacrifices of our students,” says McPhatter. “Our amazing young men and women collectively earned this distinction by their own examples of selflessness, leadership and an unrelenting passion to be the best. This is truly their award and a recognition for their tireless devotion and commitment to one another and the community in which we live.”

McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC Photo Gallery

Hernandez speaking to cadets

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Major (Ret.) Don Hernandez instructs cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC program.

McPhatter and student talking on the football field durning physical fitness training

CWO-3 Ron McPhatter talks with a cadet during physical fitness training.

Hernandez moving a cadet's salute into the right position.

Sgt. Major Don Hernandez demonstrates the proper angle for a salute during uniform inspection.

Hernandez walking in front of cadets standing at attention.

Cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC unit await uniform inspection from Sgt. Major Don Hernandez.

Hernandez speaking to the cadets who are standing at attention.

Sgt. Major Don Hernandez addresses cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC program during uniform inspection.

on stage holding oversized check from the US Army

John Corcoran (second from right) is one of 12 cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC unit who have earned a full college ROTC scholarship over the past 9 years.

Campbell Chase standing in front of flags

McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC Cadet Commander Campbell Chase was one of only 47 students from six states selected to attend the National Intelligence Summer Academy last summer.

Kylie holding check with Marine with battalion in the background.

In 2020, McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC Cadet Commander Kylie White earned a full college ROTC scholarship valued at $180,000.

photo in mock courtroom at MHS, colonel wood addressing the cadets

In 2015, cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC program received a commendation from Col. Anthony Wood in honor of their performance at the 9/11 5K Heroes Run. The group of cadets won the race and then turned back to assist a struggling JROTC group from another school.

Shackleton and McPhatter holding ceremonial sword

McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC Cadet Major Jakob Shackleton was the recipient of a full college ROTC scholarship in 2020.

Cadets in uniforms holding certificates

Cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC program earned special recognition for their performance at a summer JROTC camp in 2022.

cadets kneeling in a group around cadet leader

Cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC drill team receive instructions during class.

cadets tossing drill rifles into the air

Cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC drill team practice during class.

cadets in a line with one twirling rifle

The cadet drill team of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC program perform during the 2018 Senior Adult Tour.

cadets marching in precise formation

Cadets of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC drill team perform a marching formation.

 

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