The Washington NJROTC hosted its fourth military ball Saturday night, Feb. 2, at the KC Hall in Washington.
The evening began at 5 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres followed by opening ceremonies, dinner and guest speaker Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Coulter, a native of Washington.
The program also included a presentation of gifts and scholarships, cake cutting and concluded with a dance.
The military ball focused on the achievements and knowledge the students have gained through the NJROTC program, primarily highlighting the formal military customs and courtesies the program offers. All of the ceremonies were performed by the cadets and replicated those of adult military units.
Cadets in the program attend both Washington High School and St. Francis Borgia Regional High School. There are currently 85 cadets in the non-funded government program, including 16 girls.
Approximately 300 guests were in attendance at the ball, which is sponsored by the Washington NJROTC Booster Club.
Coulter’s theme of his speech was “perspective.”
Coulter, a graduate of St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, said he chose this theme because of his experience and how he had to change his perspective multiple times throughout his journey in the Navy.
“Three seconds before you land an aircraft, all you see is pitch black. It was probably one of the scariest parts of my career when I first started. I had to learn to change my perspective in certain situations to make myself better as a person and a pilot,” he said.
Coulter enlisted in the Navy in September of 1997 and began his career at Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes, Ill. From there, he reported to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Fla., for aviation electronics technician training.
Once his training was complete, Airman Coulter met up with the USS Saipan out at sea off the coast of Greece.
In 2002, Petty Officer 1st Class Coulter was selected to the Seaman-to-Admiral 21 program and reported to the University of Missouri-Columbia NROTC unit. Four short years later, he left Missouri for NAS Pensacola, for a second time, to complete aviation preflight indoctrination (API) training.
After API, he checked into NAS Milton, Fla., in fixed wing training Squadron 6 where he learned to fly the T-34 Turbo Mentor during basic flight training.
“Flying an aircraft for hours can be exhausting, but I had my other comrades to keep me going,” Coulter said.
Coulter was awarded the Air Medal (2), Naval Commendation Medal (2), Naval Achievement Medal (4) and other personal awards. He also earned his Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist, Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist and his coveted Wings of Gold.
Coulter told the cadets in attendance that “You still have a lot of life left to live and you’re going to have to change your perspective to succeed and become a better individual.”
He noted their hometown of Washington will help them be prepared for anything.
Coulter said Washington provided him with the “mental toughness” he needed to succeed in the Navy because of the attitude of people who live here.
“Everyone here has that work hard ethic and that allowed me to not be afraid when I was in control, making big decisions,” he said.
After 21 great years serving his country, Coulter retired Oct. 1, 2018. He accrued almost 2,000 flight hours and more than 350 carrier landings throughout his career.
Currently, Coulter is working at the Boeing Company as a program management specialist lead for F/A-18 training systems. He has been married to Carrie (Bell) Coulter for 20 years and they have two children, Izabella and Hunter.
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 “the NJROTC program is a very special program where students can (showcase) their love for their country.”
This is Gates’ second year with the Washington NJROTC, but his 17th year as an instructor. He has taught at five different schools in five different states throughout the course of his career.
Scott Grayson, president of the NJROTC Booster Club, thanked his officers and the KC Hall for their contribution to the evening.
This year, the NJROTC Booster Club recognized multiple volunteers instead of just one. Scott and Barb Grayson, Dave Batson, Susan Zurick, Tim and Tiffani Frankenberg, Tricia Piontek and Sandy Wilhelm were all honored for the outstanding amount of work they have all donated to the boosters.
Honored guests were Dr. Kelle McCallum, Washington High School principal; John Frei-tag, Washington School Board vice president; Sandy Lucy, Washington mayor; Pam Tholen, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School principal; and guest speaker Coulter.
Scholarships were awarded to Cadet Alex Davis and Cadet Braedyn Frankenberg. Both received a $500 scholarship for outstanding performance, outstanding participation and outstanding leadership while serving in the NJROTC program.
Davis, an ensign in the NJROTC unit, plans to study mechanical engineering at the University of Missouri on an Army ROTC scholarship.
Frankenberg, operations officer of the NJROTC unit, plans to study nursing at Missouri State University.
To receive a Booster Club Scholarship, candidates must be a graduating senior with a GPA of 3.5, and 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 and what the program means to them.
Coulter, retired Navy Capt. Bob Eade, and Matt White served on the selection committee and chose the two cadets as the recipients.
The top sellers of raffle tickets were recognized at the ball. They include Cadet Jackson Piontek as the top seller, Cadet Aidan Taylor as runner-up and Cadet Brady Morgan as third.
The top sellers each received a gift card from the Booster Club.
Also mentioned was the Washington Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association, which raised about $36,000 for the NJROTC unit to help pay for uniforms and equipment.