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Woodbury High School celebrates 25th anniversary of AFJROTC program

Woodbury High School is celebrating the 25th anniversary of their Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) program this month. Woodbury High School was the first school in Minnesota to activate an AFJROTC unit in 1989 and received the designation MN-891. Although funded in 1989, the school received activation orders on January 9, 1990.

The unit’s roots began in a high school in New York that lasted for less than one year.  Looking for a place to move the newly funded unit, the Air Force selected Woodbury High School because they were willing and ready to open their doors to the new program mid-school year. Before Woodbury High School started its AFJROTC unit, Woodbury students who participated in AFJROTC were transported to Park High School in Cottage Grove for class designated MN-871.

The first Senior Aerospace Science Instructor (SASI) in 1990 was Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Japs.  Lt. Col. Japs remained the SASI through 2004 when he retired. Major Thomas Petzold was then hired as the new SASI in 2005 and continues in that position today.  

Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt) Joseph Gall was the first Aerospace Science Instructor (ASI) hired in 1990 and stayed in that position through 1999. SMSgt. Gall earned his doctorate and later worked at both Woodbury and Park High School as an Assistant Principal until 2011 when he retired.  There have been a number of ASIs since, but Master Sergeant (MSgt) Kathy Cotto joined the team in 2011 and has been at Woodbury High School since. 

Both Maj. Petzold and MSgt. Cotto are honored to be part of such a great school and extraordinary group of AFJROTC cadets. “Our cadet corps is made up of some of the brightest, most capable and most dedicated students in Woodbury High School,” said Maj. Petzold.

“Many of cadets excel in Advanced Placement classes as well as sports and other activities. Many have also become Eagle Scouts, and are active in other service based programs and clubs,” said Maj. Petzold. “It is indicative of the great leaders that have come through this program as well as those that will continue to come through. Our cadets are also the reason this unit has won the Distinguished Unit with Merit award and the Distinguished Unit award the last four years.”

“The purpose of JROTC is to instill in students the value of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment by teaching subjects designed to prepare young men and women to take their place in adult society,” said Maj. Petzold. “Here at Woodbury High School, we have continued to instill those values for 25 years and we hope to continue for many more.”