MHS Comet Cadets leaders teach military values

Taylor Murray | The Chronicle

With camo pants and combat boots, Miguel Castro and Tony Haun are eagerly teaching their peers about pride, perseverance and patriotism.

Junior Miguel Castro, founder and current Commander of the Mason High School (MHS) Comet Cadets, transferred to Mason in 2021 and was surprised to find a lack of military involvement programs for high schoolers. His previous school had a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), a high school program sponsored by the United States (U.S.) Armed Forces in which participating students are taught by ex-military instructors about citizenship, physical fitness, military drills and U.S. history.

Castro said he wanted to bring a way to gain military experience to MHS, since there was no JROTC program, and founded the MHS Comet Cadets to provide students the opportunity to learn about the U.S. military. 

In their meetings, Castro and the other student leaders of the club give presentations about different military systems. Helicopters, the history of combat and the history of tanks and the army are just some of the topics that have been covered at their weekly meetings. They also practice drill formations and are looking at implementing a physical test, although they will need authorization before making that official. The club recently received a grant from Student Government for color guard equipment such as flags, helmets and drill rifles so that they can perform color guard ceremonies known as “Presenting the Colors” at Mason sports games, where the American flag is presented prior to the national anthem.

“[The club] is really to educate other people about the military as a whole, and to further our aims to present and educate others about [presenting],” Castro said.

Castro said his end goal is to join the Air Force. One of his uncles was in the U.S. Army, another uncle served in the Mexican Air Force, and his father was an Army ROTC. He said that their service inspired a passion for the military, prompting him to want to share those values with his peers.

“I want [my peers] to be future leaders – in their classes, in their personal lives and in their futures,” Castro said. “[I also want] them to be more patriotic and have a better understanding about our government and military.”

Tony Haun, a sophomore and Vice Commander of the MHS Comet Cadets, has been a part of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) for a few months, along with Castro. CAP is a non-profit, federally funded volunteer organization that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force. Haun said he has always had an interest in the military, so he wanted to take whatever steps he could to prepare himself to join their ranks after high school. 

“I want to find a place where I have a good purpose,” Haun said. “I feel like you could make a lot of friends [in the military]. And it’ll teach me discipline and respect.”

Haun said his goal in helping to lead the Cadets is to give students a similar opportunity as they would have with a JROTC group — to grow as leaders and as communicators. Haun said the club is continuing to evolve and expand every day, and he hopes that with more opportunities comes more students to learn the values of the military.

“Obviously, there’s no obligation to join the military, but that’s one of the big ideas and we just want to see people better themselves,” Haun said. “We have a focus on health, both mentally and physically, and we want to prepare people to go out into life.”