Harlan Co. JROTC ranks top in state

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2018

With 119 members, the Black Bear Battalion is the largest organization at Harlan County High School. It is also one of the most successful.

The school’s JROTC group was the focus of an inspection from Fort Knox on April 12, one conducted every three years, and scored 99 out of 100. It was the highest score for a high school in Kentucky this year.

The HCHS Color Guard started the day with a perfect score. The only other school, out of seven states, to score 99 in the last six years was Soddy Daisy High School of Tennessee. The inspection included: a Color Guard routine, a drill team routine, cadet portfolios, service learning briefing, staff briefing, supply room inspection, SAI portfolio, unit report, master training schedule, unit awards, class curriculum and cadet challenge fitness scores.

“Congratulations to all 119 cadets who participated in the inspection,” stated Major (Tim) McElyea, who is in charge of the group at HCHS and has been at the school for seven years. “I knew we’d do pretty well on it, but we did better that I thought. They went above and beyond.”

Not only was McElyea impressed, team members were also proud.

Zack Thompson, the student leader of the group as the Lt. Colonel, expressed how hard the school’s JROTC team has worked for this competition.

“I think the award we received was very well deserved. I’m proud of the Black Bear Battalion for achieving this high honor,” he said. “I strongly think the Black Bear Battalion was able to achieve such a high score in our inspection because of our cadet leadership, teamwork, dedication and our SAI (senior Army instructor Major Tim McElyea) for being the leader all JROTC cadets strive to be.”

This group is so much more than a team. It is an asset to the Harlan County School System.

“It has helped me to develop leadership skills, to become more disciplined and has taught me how to handle difficult situations,” said senior Shayla Hamlin, a major.

“We’re all very proud of what the Black Bear Battalion has accomplished,” Harlan County High School Principal Edna Burkhart said. “Those students work hard to help our school in many areas.”

Others officers include Ashton Gross, Major; Emily Smith, Melody Gross and Malia Williams, Captain; Jeff Boggs, First Lt.; Jonathan Hubbard, 2nd Lt.; and Cody Hall, Sgt. Major.