This year, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma had more than 140 new special guests in attendance at the air station’s annual uniform pageant and cake cutting ceremony to celebrate the Marine Corps’ 237th birthday, Nov. 7.
The Kofa High School U.S. Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets sat in on the festivities as part of a larger visit to the station. The cadets, led by retired Maj. Brian Bell and Master Gunnery Sgt. Eric Holland, took in the morning festivities as part of a tour of the station.
The visit kicked off at the station chapel for an hour and a half long question and answer session before a panel of six Marines. The experienced Marines were specifically chosen to give the young cadets a varied perspective on the Corps. The panel went over everything from personal and professional development, the importance of teamwork, necessary aspects of leadership and everyone’s memorable moments in boot camp.
Afterwards, the cadets moved over to the parade field where they were able to talk to and gain some knowledge from some of the Marines sporting different uniforms representing each era of the Corps storied history.
“It’s important for them to see what the Corps is about,” said Pfc. Devon Sandoval, an embarkation specialist with Marine Attack Squadron 214 and a native of Niagara Falls, NY, who represented the 1968 Vietnam Marine. “It’s a life changing thing.”
Since its inception this year, the Kofa High MCJROTC program has seen an exponential growth in membership and interest from the student population. From the initial 90 or so enrollments, Kofa High has seen the program numbers peak at as many as 147 members. They are currently made up of five platoons.
“The program has received overwhelming support from the community,” said Holland, the program instructor and a Marine with 27-years of experience. “Beginning with the school district, military retirees, high school administrators and parents.”
Shaping the leaders of tomorrow is an integral part of the program, which concentrates on many areas of development including personal growth and responsibility, the importance of career exploration and public service and general military subjects. The program teaches cadets to be respectful, honest, disciplined and to strive for more than the standard.
“I plan to join the Marines after high school,” said Ricardo Hernandez, an 18-year old Kofa senior cadet and a native of Yuma, Ariz. “So it was very interesting to learn about all the different Marine Corps uniforms and traditions in history.”
During the ceremony, the cadets were recognized by the MCAS Yuma Commanding Officer, Col. Robert Kuckuk, for their attendance. Following the ceremony, 70 of the cadets were formally promoted with their respective families in the stands. Parents and chaperones were allowed to be a part of this rite of passage.
“I got to pin on her promotion. I’m looking at her uniform and she looks really squared away,” said Stephen Strong, a retired staff sergeant and native of Shreveport, La. “It’s giving her extra focus. It’s really good to see your fifteen year old child adhere to this standard.”
The guests were then treated to some birthday cake and the customary steak and lobster meal at the station mess hall.
The final stop had the program get an up-close tour of a hangar and some AV-8B Harriers courtesy of VMA-214 and pilots Capt. Kraegen Bramer and Capt. Benjamin Broussard.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for them to see the Marine Corps up close,” said Broussard, a native of Spring, Texas. “It’s a chance for the ones possibly interested in the Corps as a future to experience it.”
The well-behaved and respectful young cadets made for great guests to the station.
All in all, the events commemorating the Marine Corps 237th birthday at MCAS Yuma were filled with honored tradition and cherished history. For Kofa’s MCJROTC cadets, this was the first in what is sure to be a long and lasting relationship with Yuma-area Marines.