Central High School’s new Navy JROTC Cadet Commander officially assumed her post on Friday, April 21st, during a Change of Command Ceremony at the school’s Bear Stadium. During the two-hour ceremony, outgoing cadet commander Cadet Captain Jaden Salley passed a U.S. Navy flag to the incoming cadet commander, Cadet Captain Breanne Flynn. The passing of the flag officially signifies the moment in which Flynn assumed command of the battalion from Salley, who has served as Cadet Commander for the past year.
According to Lieutenant Commander Christian Cruz, the school’s Senior Naval Science Instructor, the annual selection for the Cadet Commander’s position involves a very rigorous evaluation based on multiple criteria. To be considered, a cadet must first be nominated by his or her peers for the post. The nominated cadets are then evaluated for their academic performance, skill level, leadership ability, performance in previous staff positions, participation in extra-curricular activities, as well as their performance at a summer leadership camp known as the Admiral Farragut Summer Leadership Academy. The cadet selected as battalion commander must be “an outstanding all-around cadet,” said Cruz.
You only have to look at the tenure of outgoing Cadet Commander Jaden Salley to see the result of meeting such challenging criteria. Salley will graduate in May and head to the prestigious Citadel Military College in Charleston, S.C., this fall. Salley, who won a “full ride” ROTC scholarship for his academic and personal achievements, will graduate college as an officer in the United States Navy. Salley said he hopes to become an F-35 pilot, flying the most advanced fighter jet in the U.S. inventory.
During Salley’s tenure as Cadet commander, the cadet battalion received national recognition after being named “Most Improved Regiment” by the Navy League. Over 600 schools were in competition for the award, which examines every detail of a JROTC unit’s performance at the local level. To earn the award, battalion cadets must demonstrate outstanding skills in military sciences, marked improvements made in the existing program, community involvement, and overall academic achievement of cadets, along with other criteria. The award resulted in the school being able to nominate three cadets as candidates for the U.S. military service academies, in addition to the three slots all JROTC units are allowed. Additionally, while under Salley’s leadership, the unit saw some of its teams perform in the top tier of other cadet competitions, such as air rifle, orienteering, and drill teams.
Salley said he didn’t know what to expect when he first joined JROTC. As he progressed through the program, Salley began to appreciate the values that the program taught him and found that he enjoyed passing them on to other cadets. Salley said one of the most rewarding things about the program was impacting and motivating other cadets’ lives and watching them as they underwent the transformation from students to leaders. When Salley was asked what advice he had for the incoming commander, Salley said, “It will be tough at times. You might want to quit. Just never give up. Hang in there, and you’ll see the fruits of your labor.”
After interviewing Salley, it was evident that Cadet Captain Breanne Flynn has some big shoes to fill next year. It didn’t take long to realize that, like her predecessor, Flynn has what it takes for the job. Flynn’s plans for the unit begin with building on their recent successes by “raising the bar” for performance. She said she has set a goal of seeing the CHS battalion become “number one” in the nation. “Becoming the best will take a lot of work and perseverance, but we have the capabilities to get there,” she said. Flynn said her experience in JROTC has taught her “how to come out of her shell, be the best you can be, and help others learn to do that too.”
LCDR Cruz has his own take on Flynn. He said, “During her tenure as a cadet, Flynn has always led by example.” Cruz pointed out that not many cadets can meet the high-performance standard necessary to be selected, citing both Flynn’s academic record as well as her extra-curricular activities. He added, “A cadet commander has to be well-rounded and have knowledge of every area.” Cruz said Flynn’s achievements include serving as commander of the unarmed drill team, serving as company executive officer, and competing on a national level in air rifle and orienteering. Cruz noted that Flynn has dedicated countless hours to serving the community by actively participating in virtually all the unit’s public service projects, such as Toys for Tots and Wreaths Across America, as well as other volunteer events, such as Veterans Day and Christmas parades. Cruz added, “When we all met, it was clear to all of the instructors here that she (Flynn) should be selected for Cadet Commander.”
Flynn said she has her sights set on going to the Citadel after high school and then joining the Navy.