Miami Dade County Schools holds annual JROTC military ball
L to r: Alvin Gainey, Melonie Burke, Community Liaison for Miami Dade County District 2 Commissioner Jean Monestine presented proclamation to Major Charles Council and U.S. Army SFC Frank Rosario.
By Derek Joy
The element of timing is critical in the day lives of military people and military operations.
So, only hours before being hailed by more than 300 Miami Dade Public Schools JROTC Cadets as Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama landed on Air Force Two at Miami International Airport.
While President Obama attended a fundraiser for Democratic candidates at the home of Miami Heat executive Alonzo Mourning, the MDPS JROTC Program held its 2014 Military Ball and Dining In at the Symphony Ballroom of the Hilton Miami/Downtown.
“It’s a chance for the cadets to meet other cadets throughout the county,” said Major Charles Council, Senior Army Instructor for the Miami Central High School JROTC Rocket Battalion, which hosted this year’s event.
Thus, with the skillful delivery of Mistress of Ceremony Tila Lovette, Vice Cadet 1st Lt. of the Rocket Battalion, an explosion of memorable exchanges followed.
“Each year we assemble for cadets to avail themselves to a gracious evening of fellowship, dining and regale. We salute our heroes and honor the fallen,” said Lovette. “I was conceived to represent an ideal over two centuries ago. I represent liberty wherever I go. My colors (red, white and blue) represent freedom. I am the American Flag.”
Lovette touched upon the essence of the JROTC curriculum under the guidance of JROTC Director Dr. Jayne Greenberg. That curriculum, according to Miami Jackson High School Senior Army Instructor Col. Gilbert Lozano, serves more than 5,000 students at 27 high schools. The JROTC has 18 Army, four Air Force, four Navy and one Coast Guard program in those 27 schools.
“The mission of the JROTC is to motivate young people to be better citizens,” said Gilbert. “The program was founded in 1916 when Congress passed a National Defense Act. JROTC was first called Cadet Core. Congress felt it was important for our kids to understand and believe in the flag and what it stands for. The red signifies the blood that has been shed. The white represents purity and the blue stands for unity.
“One of the things we teach is leadership. Our curriculum covers more than physical fitness. It covers leadership theory, first aid, geography, science and standardized testing. We make sure these kids do well. We want them to go to college,” Lozano added.
Consequently, the stage was set for Col. David Hildreth, U.S. Army, retired, who was the guest speaker. “To say I was in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell would be like me telling you about the Civil War. It’s all in the history books. You want to talk you about leadership, about motivation. People are motivated in different ways, by different things,” Hildreth told his appreciative audience.
“I’m going to talk to you about something entirely different. I want to talk about being a follower. All through your careers you are a follower before you become a leader. You have to have good judgment. A good follower exercising good judgment to do the job as long as it isn’t illegal or immoral,” said Hildredth, who also included the qualities of good work ethic, honesty and courage, discretion and loyalty.
Such is what moves the military, as well as in life. It is evident among those who serve in the military. U. S. Air Force Captain Emilia Johnson, a 1995 graduate of Miami American High School, teaches AFJROTC at the University of Miami, and her husband, U. S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Frank Johnson, is a recruiting flight chief and native of Zillah, Wash., near Yakima.
“This event gives kids the opportunity to better their lives. It’s the first step to improvement,” said Sgt. Johnson.
It was an equally proud moment for Major Council, who saw two of his former cadets actively in attendance. Alvin Gainey served eight years in the U.S. Army and is now studying mortuary science while employed at Mitchell Funeral Home in Miami. Sergeant First Class Frank Rosario, a 15-year U.S. Army veteran, is currently assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C. Both were Council’s pupils in the Rocket Battalion until graduating from Miami Central in 1998.
Council can also be proud of Major Betty Simbert, who also graduated from Miami Central in 1998 and went on to become the first Black American female of Haitian descent to attend West Point Academy.
Council’s wife, Charlotte shed light on Simbert’s accomplishments, as Melonie Burke, Miami Dade County District 2 Commissioner Jean Monestine’s community liaison, presented proclamations from Mayor Carlos Gimenez to Council Hildreth, president of the Mess Rocket Battalion Cadet Lt. Col., Duane Ingram.
“Betty Simbert is the superstar,” said Charlotte Council. “She was younger than most, a little smaller than most, and not just because she is of brown skin. She had single mother, couldn’t meet the height requirements, and had trouble with writing skills.
“But she buckled down and made it. She’s a Major, currently on the promotion list for Lt. Col. And she’s assigned to West Point as an Admissions Officer. She is a superstar.”