Clover High School’s Air Force JROTC leader couldn’t fly any higher if he tried.
Maj. Brian Batson has been named the 2015 Air Force Junior ROTC Outstanding Instructor of the Year. The award puts Batson atop a list of almost 2,000 instructors nationwide.
“It’s really a great place to be,” Batson said of the school and Clover community. “York County is very supportive. In this environment, I don’t know how you could not be successful.”
Batson, along with Berea High School Senior Master Sgt. Bobby Williams, received the top instructors’ honor overall from six regions nationwide.
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“Their selection is a culmination of a board review of the Regional Outstanding Instructors and reflects recognition of their exemplary contributions and impact on their cadets, school and community,” said Air Force JROTC director Col. Bobby Woods Jr. in a May 12 announcement.
Woods thanked all of the winners for helping shape the JROTC program across the country.
“You have my deepest appreciation for setting the highest example of Air Force core values, which are crucial to the success of the AFJROTC mission,” he said.
Batson said it’s a little unusual having two top honors from South Carolina, a state with relatively small population. It isn’t so unusual given South Carolina’s support of the military and core ideals, he said.
“We’ve got a hallway full of trophies from my predecessors over 20 years,” Batson said. “It’s really a testament to the kids.”
Senior Master Sgt. Clarence Woodham, in his first year with the Clover High program, also received an Outstanding Instructor honor. The award puts Woodham in the top 10 percent of instructors nationwide. Batson and Woodham will receive gold instructor badges for their accomplishments.
The recent awards are the latest for the Clover program. Named a distinguished unit for nine straight years, about 250 students participate. The ability to reach so many students, plus a friendship with Batson forged during summer work together, prompted Woodham to join the Clover program after nine years at South Pointe High School in Rock Hill.
“We pretty much eat, drink and sleep this stuff,” Woodham said. “It was a breath of fresh air getting to come here and work with him.”
Woodham has 31 years active duty experience, Batson 21 years. The JROTC program in Clover has a 100 percent graduation rate among students taking all three courses. Lessons on physics of flight, astronomy and aeronautics join the typical drill activities and uniform days once a week. Passengers from the Miracle on the Hudson spoke with classes. The program took students to monuments in Washington, D.C. Students went flying with active duty Air Force in Charleston.
Batson’s program has four students in service academies, and recently began an Olympic-style marksmanship team.
“I can get my feelings hurt when people think we’re just a club that gets together to march,” Batson said.
Batson and Woodham said there is one constant in the success at Clover High, one that predates them. The students come from a community that supports their efforts, and those students respond.
“We just provide the guidance,” Woodham said. “They provide the thrust.”
John Marks • 803-831-8166