Nicole D. Perez, Alice Echo-News Journal

For the fifth time in the group's 14-year history at Alice High School, the Air Force JROTC program has been named a Distinguished Unit.

This announcement came at Wednesday's 14th annual awards banquet by Alice ISD superintendent Henry Herrera.

"This Distinguished Unit award for the 2006-2007 year is for the growth and accomplishments of cadets and is limited to the best of the best," Herrera told the crowd of cadets, their family members and distinguished guests.

The award recognizes Air Force JROTC units that have performed above and beyond normal expectations, and that have distinguished themselves through outstanding service to their school and community while meeting the JROTC mission of producing better citizens.

Numerous awards were handed out to cadets Wednesday, and third-year cadets were also presented with letterman jackets.

Former AHS principal and current Director of Secondary Education Amy Koenning was the guest speaker at the event. She recalled the hard work the school district went through to obtain a JROTC program. In 1987, Alice High School was number 47 on a list of schools to receive the program.

"We were told we probably wouldn't get one, but the Coyote pride wouldn't give up," she said.

Five years later, AISD learned it would receive the program, which began in the 1993-94 school year.

Koenning said JROTC is "the best organization at Alice High School," most notably because the group contributes 1,000 community service hours each school year, whether it's participating in parades or in flag-raising ceremonies.

"I love Wednesdays," Koenning said of the day of the week designated for cadets to wear their uniforms.

"There's nothing more exciting than standing in the hallways and seeing cadets in uniform."

Koenning also gave new meaning to the acronym JROTC. "J" stands for the jewel of Alice High School; "R" is for the relationships the cadets form; "O" is for opportunities to make a difference in others' lives; "T" is for team; and "C" is for community, namely the difference cadets make in this community, she said.

Josh Flores, who along with co-commander Kristen Soliz was promoted to Cadet Colonel Wednesday night, said the awards banquet was a time "to reflect on all we've done all year and recognize our achievements."

He said cadets truly live up to the 931st's motto of "Service Above Self" with the various project the cadets undertook this year, including visiting nursing homes at Christmas, cleaning up the cemetery monthly, competing in color and drill team events, helping at college night and more.

"Cadets have learned with hard work dreams come true," Flores said.

The new officer corps was named for the fall semester and are Corps Commander, Jessica Gonzalez; Deputy Corps Commander, Erika Zambrano; Executive Officer, Cassandra Castro; Operations Officer, Jonathan Coatney; SQ Commander, Jackie Cavazos; SQ Commander Joe Smithwick and Senior Enlisted Advisor, Stephanie Wyatt.

Col. Glenn Larsen, TX-931st Senior Aerospace Science instructor, also presented his Commander Awards to Dan Stim of the 3rd Coast Squadron, Individual Support Award, and the Alice Echo-News Journal for its support of the JROTC program.