Highland Park JROTC earns major honor for the first time in 34 years

Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 at 9:00 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Highland Park Junior ROTC program recently earned the Air Force Distinguished Unit Award with Merit for the first time in 34 years.

It all started several years ago, when a recruiter told Senior Master Sergeant Scott Moser there was an opening for an instructor position with the program.

SMSgt Moser was immediately interested in the position, and he already met one of the three requirements.

“You need to have a love and passion for teenagers, and I said ‘I have that’,” said SMSgt Moser.

So he got his four year degree required, retired, and got the job. From there, he started a complete reconstruction of the program.

“I took over in August of 2018 and it was a mess, absolute mess,” said SMSgt Moser. “There was only 39 cadets, I had nothing to go off of, there was no other instructor here, normally there’s two. And I was like ‘Ok, we got to fix this.’”

Fast forward nearly four years and one historic award later, and SMSgt Moser has certainly fixed things.

“Seeing how much this program has grown, I definitely think we did deserve that award because this program is just, it’s amazing,” said Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Jackie Perez. “It helps every person that comes in.”

When 13 News asked SMSgt Moser what the award means to him, he got emotional, and said it’s all for his students. “It’s really awesome because they did it. I was just the facilitator,” he said.

But for the students, SMSgt Moser is much more than just a facilitator. They described him as a role model that goes above and beyond to be there for them.

“A couple times I did have breakdowns, and I was like ‘I can’t do this’,” said Cadet Master Sergeant Nicolette Jones. “And some of those times, I could just go into his office, cry it out, talk to him a little bit, and I’d be good.”

The last four years were not easy, but SMSgt Moser is proud to have taken the program from almost shutting down, to distinguished with merit.

“Sometimes they have this perception that they have to be something because someone tells them they have to be something,” said SMSgt Moser. “And I like to tell them to look in the mirror and see what I see, and be that, be you.”

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