Cadets earn recognition, visit from general

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Lt. Gen. David Fadok, commander and president of the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, talks with AFJROTC students during a visit to Naugatuck High School last Friday. The program was awarded the Distinguished Unit Award with Merit for the 2011-12 academic school year. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps recently received the highest of honors.

The program was awarded the Distinguished Unit Award with Merit for the 2011-12 academic school year. This is the highest award that an AFJROTC unit can obtain. The high school was one of 108 units out of 882 in the country to receive the award.

Lt. Col. Valerie J. Lofland, USAF, who runs the unit, explained a unit is awarded the Distinguished Merit Award by achieving or surpassing all the goals it set for its members.

Naugatuck High School’s unit’s goals last school year included increasing visibility of the program during the first two weeks of the school year by visiting every freshman English class and expanding the unit’s biannual Naugatuck River cleanup effort from 100 hours to 200 hours due to damage from Hurricane Irene.

The unit exceeded the goals in every category it set for itself, Lofland said.

The recognition earned the Naugatuck unit, which has about 110 students in it, a special visitor last Friday.

Lt. Gen. David Fadok, the commander and president of the Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., came to Naugatuck High to speak to the students.

Fadok was in the state speaking to the ROTC program at Yale University, which was just reinstated this year after many years of being inactive.

“He wanted to see a Connecticut JROTC unit,” Lofland said, explaining that there were three others in Torrington, Norwalk, and Danbury. “We were selected because we have an outstanding unit.”

Fadok began by telling the unit about how he fell in love with flying from an early age. That love eventually led to a 35-year career in the Air Force.

He told the cadets that they’re service with the AFJROTC during their high school years will help shape them.

“You’ll be different and better people because of ROTC,” Fadok said.

He spoke to the cadets about the AFJROTC’s three core values — integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

“When you don’t have integrity in your life, you can’t get your job done,” Fadok told the cadets.

He then fielded questions from the cadets, who asked him about his career in the Air Force, his family, and the types of planes he has flown.

“I thought he was great,” said Ryan Lewis, a senior and AFJROTC officer.

Sarah Bourassa, a senior and AFJROTC officer pointed out that he had only visited a few other high school AFJROTC programs.

“I thought it was a privilege,” Bourassa said.

Lofland was also pleased that Fadok chose to speak to Naugatuck High’s unit.

“He was a very inspirational speaker,” Lofland said. “The cadets were honored and delighted to speak with Lt. Gen. Fadok and ask him questions.”