Local NJROTC earning major accomplishments

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12/16/2013 7:00 AM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Southold-Mattituck-Greenport NJROTC unit during its annual inspection last Wednesday at Southold High School. The cadets took home top awards last month during a regional drill competition in Connecticut.

Only four months into the new school year, the Southold-Mattituck-Greenport Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps is already celebrating big wins and unprecedented achievements.

Four 2010 high school graduates have been appointed Navy pilots, two current high school cadets have received early notification that they’ve earned full-college scholarships and the North Fork NJROTC unit outperformed more than 15 schools from the tri-state area during a recent competition in Connecticut.

While Senior Naval Science Instructor Major Bill Grigonis is proud of his unit’s success, he described the naval aviation appointments as “unprecedented.”

“Four from the little Town of Southold attending flight school in May is amazing,” the major said.

The four naval aviators are: John Dunne of Southold, a student at SUNY Maritime College; Sarah Conlin of Cutchogue, who is attending school at Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Zach Sacher of Southold, who is enrolled at Boston University; and Tyler Mehrman of Southold, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student.

Major Grigonis said the highly-competitive appointments are based largely on academic performance and the chosen ones are allowed to pick which program they’d like to enter into.

“We’ve never had four graduates [appointed Navy pilots] at the same time and I haven’t heard of any other unit achieving that either,” the major said. “We had a strong group in 2010, with seven also receiving full-ride scholarships.”

While it isn’t unheard of for students to be notified about earning a scholarship before the Thanksgiving holiday, Major Grigonis described it as a rare delight to be informed about the achievement before the scholarship winners are typically announced in March.

The current high school students who have already been notified this school year are both from Southold High School: Gary Prieto, who has also been appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy, and Jamie Grigonis, Major Grigonis’ daughter who has received an Army ROTC scholarship to Fordham University.

In addition to those achievements, 66 cadets from the North Fork NJROTC unit dominated both the senior and freshman divisions during the Area 4 Regional Drill Competition on Nov. 23 in Bethel, Conn., where more than 600 Navy and Air Force cadets from tri-state area schools competed.

“I am so proud of all the cadets and the leadership,” Major Grigonis said. “The cadets took home trophies in almost every event.”

The annual competition is split by experience: first year cadets compete in the NS1 division and the rest participate in the varsity division.

After all the scores from each competition were tallied, the Southold-Mattituck-Greenport NJROTC unit took home first place in the overall varsity division, as well as first place in the overall NS1 division. The major said the last time his unit won both of those overall categories happened about four years ago.

Both divisions also took home first place in the academics categories. The NS1 Division won first place in the unarmed platoon and the inspection competitions. The varsity team won first place in the color guard competition, second place in the unarmed platoon category and third place for its armed-platoon skills.

The next local NJROTC event is scheduled for Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mattituck High School, where the unit will participate in the the Annual Drill Competition with about 12 schools from the the tri-state area.

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