By Kenneth FidlerMay 29, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea Aca,!" When Daniel Cho joined Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps five years ago, he wasn't exactly thrilled. "I didn't really care," he said. "I was one of the ones getting chewed out."
But after the first year it became his passion, and May 22 he finished his JROTC experience as Seoul American High School's regimental commander with three ROTC scholarships to choose from, giving him passage to almost any college in the country, including West Point, his top choice.
Cho was one of 37 cadets recognized with JROTC awards during the Falcon Battalion Award Ceremony May 22, which included cadets from Taegu and Osan.
Of those cadets, 34 earned a combined 72 ROTC scholarships, with six winning full scholarships to service academies.
"Every cadet on the field today is better for being in ROTC," said reviewing officer and guest speaker Brig. Gen. Al Aycock, Installation Management Command-Korea Command General. "It is an outstanding program, and that is particularly true at Seoul American High School where you have been a unit of distinction for 27 straight years."
The cadets earned awards for accomplishments ranging from academic and athletic excellence to cadet excellence at the local and national levels.
Some of the top award winners are:
Aca,!Ac Cho, DODDS-Pacific Superinten-dent Award
Aca,!Ac Cadet John Thompkins and Cadet Min J. Choi, Association of the U.S. Army Cadet of the Year
Aca,!Ac Cadet Chris Paek, Distinguished Cadet of the Year
"These awards are definitely earned," said Lt. Col. Donald Hedgpath, senior Army instructor of the SAHS Falcon Battalion. "They have worked extremely hard all year, to be top students and cadets."
SAHS students also took more than 50 percent of the total ROTC scholarships offered to Department of Defense Dependent Schools in the Pacific region, Hedgpath said.
"ROTC scholarships are national level scholarships, and I'm very proud SAHS has the reputation of leading not only the Pacific, but all DODDS schools around the world," Hedgpath said.
Many seniors were dual-scholarship winners to universities such as University of California-Los Angeles, UCLA-Berkeley, George Washington University, and other top schools in the country.
Several also received awards and scholarships through local organizations, such as the Sergeant Major's Association, the Noncommissioned Officers Association, the American Forces Spouses' Club, the Enlisted Wives' Club, the Audie Murphy Association and the Air Force Association.
For Cho - who was also the Rifle Team captain and Far East Team captain - attending West Point "has been my dream since freshman year." He's undecided on whether to make it a career, but "I know it's a sure way to start off."
Cadet Richard Johnson was a triple scholarship winner and recipient of the Military Orders of the World Wars Award. The four-year cadet also chose West Point and is looking at a career in the military.
"I joined because my dad's in the military, grandpa was in the military, great-gandpa was in the military. It's a family tradition," he said.
When he first joined, like Cho, he wasn't too pleased either, having to a wear a uniform and "getting bossed around by the older kids, but that's how it's structured.
"But after time," he continued, "you learn a lot of values. There's a really strong curriculum to teach you how to be a better citizen, leadership skills, discipline and character traits. All that stays with you."