As I converse with young people at West Bladen High School where I work as an Army JROTC instructor, I am often amused when some tell me why they choose to stay away from my program: “I can’t do push-ups,” “I don’t want anybody yelling in my face,” “I can’t run five miles,” “I don’t want to join the Army.” The misconceptions about JROTC are as old as the program, and unfortunately, so is the cycle of missed opportunities.
JROTC is an acronym for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Part of the confusion about what the program is about is caused by its misleading name. Although JROTC shares a name with ROTC programs in our nation’s colleges and universities, unlike college ROTC, it DOES NOT recruit or train young people for service in the military. Instead, the mission of JROTC is “To motivate young people to be better citizens.” We take this mission very seriously, and strive every day to ensure that we are providing our young students with useful tools to help them develop physically, mentally, emotionally, and attitudinally as better assets to our society.
In JROTC, we teach and train an expertly-developed curriculum of subjects including, but not limited to: First Aid, How to Respect the U. S. Flag, Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Prevention of Sexual Harassment, Managing Personal Finances, Community Service, and How the U.S. Government works. We do not teach combat skills, although we use marching, rappelling and other traditional military techniques to instill leadership, discipline and confidence in our students.
Like me, the average JROTC instructor has successfully completed at least 20 years in the U.S. military and has retired honorably. We normally have children of our own and are dedicated to instilling positive values and overall, helping young people live better, more successful lives.
Listed below are my answers to questions that young people often have about taking JROTC in high school:
Q: Why should I enroll in JROTC?
A: JROTC is the best high school leadership course in America. It helps high school students learn to be better citizens through exciting classroom instruction, physical training and fun teamwork activities.
Q: If I join JROTC, will I have to serve in the Army or other military service?
A: No. Being in JROTC does not obligate you to the Army or any other military service in any way. In JROTC, we use youth-oriented leadership training to teach personal responsibility and to develop our young people into better citizens. Sometimes JROTC students win ROTC college scholarships, choose to continue into college ROTC or to enlist in the military, but this is totally voluntary.
Q: Can I play sports AND take JROTC at the same time?
A: Yes. We love having athletes in JROTC. JROTC and sports complement each other in developing strong, versatile leaders. We will ensure that athletes do not miss practices or games.
Q: Will I have to wear a uniform if I take JROTC?
A: Yes, once a week; and we will show you how it is properly done so you will look marvelous. The uniform is attractive and very much like those of the proud men and women of the U.S. military. It is loaned free of charge to the student.
Q: I heard that JROTC Cadets have to do 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups and run five miles. Will I have to do that?
A: While JROTC does teach health and physical fitness, and we strive to help young people reach their personal fitness goals, there are no specific physical requirements for enrolling in, or being successful in this program.
Q: I often see JROTC students get huge college ROTC scholarships. Does JROTC give college scholarships?
A: The mission of college ROTC is to recruit and train young people to serve as commissioned officers in the military. The military funds several types of very lucrative ROTC scholarships to help young people pay for college. Any high school student can compete for a college ROTC scholarship. While JROTC does not recruit or award scholarships, we do emphasize the importance of higher education as well as the many benefits of serving in the military.
Overall, JROTC helps young people develop values that make them better citizens; more capable of leading and achieving higher levels of success in our challenging global society.
For more information, contact us at 910-862-3353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Col. Eli Ballard, U.S. Army (retired), is the senior JROTC instructor at West Bladen High School.