The Navy National Defense Cadet Corps Washington (NJROTC) hosted its third Military Ball Saturday night, Feb. 3, at the KC Hall in Washington.
The evening began at 5 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres followed by opening ceremonies, dinner, guest speaker Col. Laura K. Dawson, a presentation of gifts and scholarships, and ended with a dance.
The evening highlighted the formal military customs and courtesies students have learned through the NJROTC program. All of the ceremonies performed by the Cadets mirrored those of adult military units.
Cadets in the program attend Washington High School and St. Francis Borgia Regional High School. There were 260 guests in attendance at the ball, which was sponsored by the NJROTC Washington Booster Club.
Col. Laura K. Dawson was the evening’s keynote speaker. Dawson began with an address to the students: “I am here to talk to our cadets, and that is really going to be the emphasis of who I am talking to tonight.”
Commissioned in 1988 through the University of North Alabama’s ROTC program, Dawson’s list of accomplishments is extensive and includes assignments in eight U.S. states, and abroad in Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Southwest Asia supporting Desert Storm and Operation Desert Thunder.
Initially, she felt that the reserves would be a steppingstone for a career; however, she was soon placed on active duty and learned “how to safely jump out, or in my case be pushed out, of a perfectly good aircraft.”
She was the first female assigned to a U.S. Army Cavalry unit and was selected to serve as the first female troop commander. She went on to medical school and was matched into an orthopedic residency position and deployed with the 759th Forward Surgical Team to Forward Operating Base Fenty, Afghanistan.
Although she did not expect the path her career took, she “had a very positive experience and wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Dawson told the cadets in attendance that “there is so much out there, (you) are all talented individuals that can accomplish even more.”
Dawson is currently serving as an orthopedic team physician for the United States Military Academy Women’s Soccer team and as the deputy commander, clinical services for the Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point, N.Y.
She completed Quartermaster Officer Basic Course, Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga., the Aerial Delivery Course (Rigger) at Fort Lee, Va., Initial Entry Rotary Wing course at Fort Rucker, Ala., Aviation Advance Officer Course, and the Maintenance Test Pilot Course, Fort Rucker, Ala., in addition to medical school.
“This country gives you the ability and the decision making to pursue even more than you think you are able to do,” she told the cadets. “Do the best you can with what you’ve been given and keep your options open.”
Dawson is married to Samuel R. Dawson, a retired U.S. Army aviator and current commercial airline pilot. They have two children, Sydney (USMA 2021) and Joe who is a senior in high school and has committed to the U.S. Navy.
Marine Master Sgt. Tim Gates, NJROTC officiating instructor at Washington High School, thanked the honored guests for their contributions to the program, and noted that Washington is “one of the favorite places we’ve ever lived.”
This school year is Gates’ first with the Washington NJROTC, but his 16th year as an instructor.
Scott Grayson, president of the NJROTC Booster Club, thanked his officers and the KC Hall for their contribution to the evening. He presented the Outstanding Volunteer award to Beverly Brautigam via phone video for the outstanding amount of hours she has donated to the boosters.
Honored guests of the evening were presented with Sword Detail at the door. Honored guests were Dr. Judy Straatmann, Washington School District assistant superintendent; Sandy Lucy, Washington mayor; Father Kevin Schmittgens, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School president; and Col. Laura K. Dawson.
Scholarships were awarded to Cadet LT Jack Politte and Cadet LCDR Luke Grayson. Both received a $500 scholarship for outstanding performance, outstanding participation and outstanding leadership while serving in the NJROTC program.
Politte, executive officer of the NJROTC unit, plans to attend the University of Missouri on an Army ROTC scholarship.
Grayson, commanding officer of the NJROTC unit, plans to attend the United States Naval Academy where he received an appointment and also will play on the Navy football team.
To receive a Booster Club Scholarship, candidates must be a graduating senior with a GPA of 3.5, who has been in NJROTC for three or more years.
The cadets had to compete for the scholarship by meeting the criteria and writing a one-page essay on how NJROTC has affected their future.
Mayor Lucy, Capt. Bob Eade, USN retired, and Bill Miller Sr., Missourian editor and publisher, served on the selection committee and chose the two cadets as the recipients.
The top sellers of raffle tickets were recgonized at the ball. They include Cadet PO1 Alex Lick, $305; Cadet SA Geneivie Clark, $135; Cadet Seaman Trafton Messex, $125; Cadet Seaman Timothy Sowrheaver, $120; Cadet PO1 Jackson Piontek, $120; and Cadet Seaman Tres Stirrat, $100.
The top-sellers received apparel with the unit logo from the Booster Club.