Carly Territo and Phylicia Irons are covered in medals.
The Central High School seniors have distinguished themselves so much in the school's Navy Junior ROTC program, they have received dozens of honors.
Carly, 17, has 32 medals. Phylicia, 17, has 21. Their most recent additions are the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross Award for Achievement that each received at a ceremony on Sept. 16.
The school's program was recognized at that time as the No. 1 program in the state for 2009 and No. 2 in the nation for 2009.
Senior naval science instructor Michael P. Ralph, Lt. Col. USMC (retired) directs the program, assisted by Master Chief Bruce Kennedy, U.S. Navy (retired) and Chief Wendall Dey, U.S. Navy (retired). Ralph began the program eight years ago, and for seven years, it has received the Distinguished Unit award.
Carly is the program's regimental commander, and Phylicia is regimental executive officer. The 301-member regiment consists of two battalions, four companies, 12 platoons, and 36 squads.
Ralph described the two leaders in glowing nomination letters to the Navy Junior ROTC Unit Area Seven manager, Navy Cmdr. Dirk Hebert (retired). The girls were selected from 8,000 cadets.
Ralph said recipients of the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross Awards are expected to be good leaders and excellent students. "These two young ladies are firing on both of those cylinders," he said.
Carly and Phylicia are both heavily involved with their school's unit. Besides being regiment commander, Carly is the commander of the all-female unarmed exhibition drill team. Phylicia is on the mostly male, armed exhibition drill team. Carly is on the unit's athletic team and Phylicia is on the academic team.
Both take the first-period drill class and the all-senior headquarters period, when they plan events and complete paperwork.
JROTC students wear uniforms to school once a week. These include summer blues, dress blues, khakis, winter blues and polos with uniform pants. "The Navy provides the uniforms," Ralph said.
Active JROTC participation is only part of the girls' school lives. Both are top students and are involved outside of the unit.
Carly has a 4.05 grade point average and is vice president of the school's chapter of the National Honor Society. She is the senior class secretary and a member of the BETA Club. She is captain of Central's volleyball team.
Phylicia has a 4.3 grade point average and is secretary of the National Honor Society chapter. She is in BETA Club and has a third-degree tae kwon do black belt.
After graduation, both girls expect to attend college.
"I plan to attend USF and I plan to major in nursing," Carly said. "I applied for the ROTC scholarship. I'm just waiting to hear back." She is uncertain whether she will join the Navy.
Phylicia is waiting to hear from the University of Florida. She has already been accepted to the University of Pittsburgh, and she has family in that area. She has applied for the Navy scholarship and plans to major in medicine to become an emergency medical physician. She intends to join the Navy.
Ralph attributes the success of the unit to the support of the instructors, faculty, staff, administration, the community and parents.
"The recipe for success has so many support mechanisms that have to be in place," he said. "We get a lot of support from the veterans in the community."
All of this makes the unit something students want to join. "The kids will come if you present an environment that's working and fun," Ralph said.