The Southold-Mattituck-Greenport NJROTC unit was named the most outstanding unit in the northeast last week for the sixth year in a row, and the 293 North Fork cadets are on pins and needles waiting to hear if their unit will again be named the best in the nation.
No NJROTC unit has ever received the nation’s top honor two years in a row, unit leader Maj. William Grigonis said this week.
The unit is expecting to learn the national results within days.
“The area manager said, ‘It’s a pretty lofty goal you’ve set to be number one in the nation again,’ ” said Maj. Grigonis. He added that the unit’s student commander, Matt Ireland, a Mattituck senior, responded with, “No one’s ever done it twice. It might as well be us because we work hard enough.”
Cmdr. Ireland has received a full Marine Corps scholarship and will be going to college at The Citadel in South Carolina this fall.
He’s one of 10 seniors in the North Fork unit who will receive major military scholarships totalling more than $2 million. Seven of those students will be using those scholarships, which will be given out at an awards dinner May 29.
Mr. Grigonis said the regional award has become more and more competitive over the six years in which the unit has placed on top, in part because the other 49 units in the northeast are now studying what makes the North Fork unit so strong.
“Being the most outstanding unit has nothing to do with the military. It’s more about academics and community service,” said Maj. Grigonis. “We put in 10,000 hours of service this year.”
Members of the unit have volunteered to weave eelgrass into mats for Cornell Cooperative Extension, participated in seven beach clean-ups, had several teams in the Relay for Life, volunteered with East End Hospice and will help out with the Tall Ships program in Greenport over Memorial Day weekend.
“There are all kinds of little events throughout the year,” said Maj. Grigonis.
The program’s enrollment swelled by 30 additional students this year during a time when student populations across the North Fork are declining. This year, 102 cadets are freshmen.
“We lose some based on scheduling, but every cadet or former cadet that walks through the door, I always say hello to them in the hallways,” said Maj. Grigonis. “I think every person who joins ROTC gets something out of it. You get to be so proud of them. It’s almost like they’re your kids.”