Bales earns rare honor with FHS NJROTC unit

In addition to holding first-place in Knox County Navy Junior Reserve officers Training Corps Drill Meet standings, Farragut High School NJROTC’s fall semester stands out as special in two ways.

While the program celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier during the semester, quick thinking by Cadet Lt. William Bales — during a medical emergency involving a 94-year-old — resulted in the program awarding its first Cadet Meritorious Achievement Ribbon.

“It’s a rare occasion when someone is awarded a Cadet Meritorious Achievement Ribbon. It is the highest ribbon that is awarded to an NJROTC cadet,” Cmdr. Kevin Smathers, Farragut NJROTC Senior Naval Science instructor, said during an Awards and Promotions Ceremony Thursday afternoon, Dec. 15, in the program’s drill bay.

In almost 14 years as a Naval science instructor, fourth at FHS, “I’ve never had a student that has gotten this award,” Smathers said before the ceremony.

In the presence of all unit cadets and Bales’ parents, Mary and Doug Bales, Smathers read the following citation during the ceremony:

“Cadet Lt. William Bales dem-onstrated outstanding leadership skills, patience and intestinal fortitude with the Farragut High School Navy Junior ROTC Prog-ram on Oct, 10, 2016.

“While at his place of employment at Park Place Independent Living Center, Cadet Bales witnessed a 94 year-old male resident fall. Cadet Bales was not serving in any medical capacity, but without hesitation went to the immediate aid of this World War II fighter pilot.

“After determining that the injuries appeared to be serious, he immediately called emergency medical services and his supervisor, thereby preventing shock and further injury. Due to the nature of the traumatic injury, Cadet Bales was instrumental in calmly reassuring the patient who had a severe gash on his face, ensuring that he remain conscious, as comfortable as possible and calm.

“Cadet Bales remained with his patient until paramedics took vital signs and transferred him to an ambulance for further treatment. It was Cadet Bales’ courage and immediate action that averted further potentially catastrophic injury to the patient. His example of meritorious achievement has set a standard that few cadets will ever be able to emulate, and are in keeping with the finest traditions of Farragut High School, the Navy Junior ROTC Unit and the United States Navy.”

The 94-year-old veteran “is just fine” after recovering from his injury, said Bales, a junior aspiring to become a U.S. Navy chaplain.

Crediting the FHS NJROTC program for instilling the qualities Smathers listed, Bales said after the ceremony, “My freshman year on we’ve always learned to work as a team and to be as helpful to others as we possibly can.”

Saying he is “looking at” a career goal as a U.S. Navy chaplain, Bales, 16, added he’s already has experience — dating back to his freshman year.

“They’ve given me the opportunity to be the chaplain here [with his unit],” Bales said. .”It really helps my desire to be an actual Navy chaplain. … Besides praying [at public events], I’m more of a counselor to cadets that need help. They can come to me and they know that they are safe talking to me.

“I’ve learned to be calm during situations like that and just make sure everything’s OK,” he added.