WOONSOCKET â€“ Ron Gaulin, a retired Woonsocket Middle School teacher, has plenty of connections to the United States Air Force. He served in the Air Force himself in the 1960s and 70s and has two sons and a daughter-in-law currently on active duty.
It should be no surprise then that Gaulin has followed the development of an Air Force Junior ROTC Wing at the high school over the past six years and helped out with wing activities when he could.
Gaulin capped that support this week with the presentation of a hand-crafted rendition of the ROTC Wingâ€™s shoulder patch that will now decorate a wall in the cadetsâ€™ classroom.
The wood carving on medex and basswood that Gaulin completed at the Wooden Apple in Auburn, Mass., is intended to help promote the Wing as a new learning path in the school.
Gaulin said he also wanted to note the work the programâ€™s instructors, Lt. Col. Dan Richard and Sgt. Daniel Pinckney have put into getting the Wing up and running in so short a period of time.
â€śThe sense of purpose here is very good and that is a credit to Lt. Col. Richard and Sgt. Pinckney,â€ť he said.
â€śThe students are dedicated, the faculty is dedicated and their hard work has made this program very successful,â€ť he said.
Students participating in the Wing learn time management strategies, personal discipline through unit drills and formation time, and also gain a wide range of experience through classroom work and off campus visits to military facilities and aircraft.
Local cadets have flown in helicopters and C-130s during stops at the Rhode Island Air National Guard base in Quonset or the Massachusetts Air National Guard base on Cape Cod as part of some of those experiences. Other cadets have gained the opportunities to join Air Force summer camps and leadership programs on military bases around the country.
All of that can help give the students an understanding of the career choices they might find in the military, according to Gaulin.
In his own familyâ€™s experience, Gaulinâ€™s sons, Major Eric Gaulin and Capt. David Gaulin both became Air Force pilots, flying the Air Forceâ€™s C-130 turbo prop cargo plane and its new C-17 jet engine transport. Ericâ€™s wife, Julie, is also a member of the Air Force, Gaulin said.
David had met Richard while he was working as an advanced flight trainer at Enid, AFB in Oklahoma, and took courses with him, Gaulin said.
While carving the plaque took some of his free time, Gaulin said he enjoyed the work and was pleased to be able to hand it over to the Wingâ€™s cadets during their morning assembly this week.
â€śIt directly relates to this program and its success,â€ť Gaulin said. â€śI think this Wing is a big plus for the high school and is a very positive program and very oriented to students,â€ť he said.
Richard said the carving will be given a proper place of display with other Wing awards and tributes in its avionics and military science classroom.
â€śItâ€™s an amazing piece of work. I could have spent the next ten years and not done something this good,â€ť he said. â€śIt is a way to solidify what our unit stands for,â€ť Richard said.
This year a total of 125 cadets are enrolled in the Junior ROTC program. In addition to their classroom work and drill periods, the cadets recently represented the high school while marching in the cityâ€™s Autumnfest Parade.