By Kurt Hauglie
CALUMET - For a high school Junior ROTC program to have a color guard to present flags at various events isn't unusual, but if that color guard is on ice skates, that might be a little different.
Photo courtesy Maj. Michael Farley
The Calumet High School JROTC Skating Color Guard presented flags during a regional hockey championship game at Michigan Technological University several years ago. The skating color guard formed in 1999.
Maj. Michael Farley of the Calumet High School JROTC, said the group's ice skating color guard has recently received some national attention appearing in December in a national magazine about ROTC activities called "The Cadet."
Farley said after he became the Calumet JROTC instructor in 1998, he got a surprise during an event at the Calumet Colosseum.
"I was sitting in the bleachers watching a hockey game, and it was announced the ROTC would present the flags," he said. "That was news to me."
The color guard didn't present the American and Michigan flags at that game, but Farley started contemplating the fact the color guard did present the flags at other school and athletic events.
"That got me thinking, 'Why don't we do it on the ice?'" he said.
Farley said he soon became aware how important hockey and ice skating in general are in the area, so he started thinking about how the JROTC could present on ice. He knew about a CHS student who was a figure skater so he asked her to join the JROTC to develop the skating color guard program.
"She did a wonderful job," he said.
The JROTC skating color guard formed in 1999, Farley said. That first group included members who had experience either with hockey or other forms of ice skating.
"Everybody skates even if they don't play hockey," he said.
The original group for the skating color guard had 10 or 12 members, Farley said.
"The first year, we just put it out there and said, 'This is what we're going to do,'" he said.
At least five members were in the early skating color guards at a particular event, Farley said. It's grown quite a bit since.
"Now, we have 20 to 25 kids," he said.
The color guard can have as many as 20 members on the ice, depending on how many are available for a particular event.
Early on, Farley said the skating color guard would skate pretty much in a straight line, but with experience, they've expanded their repertoire.
"Over the years it's gotten much more complicated and intricate," he said. "That's to keep it interesting to the kids and the audience."
Besides the CHS hockey games, Farley said the skating color guard has presented the flags at some Finlandia University hockey games and during regional hockey championships at Michigan Technological University.
They may be able to present at a semi-professional game for the Norfolk Admirals in Norfolk, Va., and maybe even for an NHL game.
"We've been in contact with the (Detroit) Red Wings to present," he said. "They haven't bit on that, yet."
Farley said since it has a JROTC program, "The Cadet" magazine is sent to the high school, and after viewing one issue, he got the idea the skating color guard program but work well as an article for the publication.
"There was a very interesting story about a (horse) mounted color guard in Texas," he said.
He contacted the magazine, Farley said, and told the person he talked to about the skating guard, which he said was unique.
"As far as we know, nobody goes out on the ice on skates," Farley said. "He said, 'Yeah, that's pretty neat,'"
Magazine officials were impressed with the idea of a skating color guard, Farley said, and a reporter came to the school for two days in October. The magazine published in December.
Farley said the JROTC members were impressed with the idea of being in a magazine article.
"They were pretty excited about it," he said. "It was pretty cool for them. They're not used to getting a lot of publicity."
Farley said besides having the opportunity to present the American and Michigan flags at events, the skating color guard has an important teaching aspect.
"Our objective is motivating students to become better citizens," he said.
The students plan the routines and conduct the practices, with little input from himself or other adults.
"They're essentially the coaches," he said. "We let them work out the problems."