The Army JROTC curriculum draws on the best lessons learned in the Army, and strives to build self-image and integrity in high school students. Students are taught leadership, loyalty, honor, ethical behavior and commitment. JROTC provides challenges that prepare students more than what they face in everyday life. If they give 100% they also finish extremely fit physically.
A common myth is that JROTC is used to recruit cadets for the armed services. In fact, instructors are forbidden to activity recruit; they can only help guide if students are interested. JROTC is also not a turn-around program for undisciplined students.
Besides investing millions of dollars developing the curriculum, the Army uses retired military personnel as instructors. The Department of Defense even pays 50% of each instructor's salary--a really good deal financially for the school district.
Blair JROTC began in 1984 and is currently led by 1SG Benaiah Hicks, who came to Blair in 2017. (1SG is First Sergeant.) Senior Instructor 1SG Ervin Turner retired in 2020 after 22(!) years at Blair. He was preceded as Senior Instructor by Lt. Colonel Ed Tyrrell. Tyrrell retired from Blair in 2011. As retired Army, the JROTC instructors apply real-life experience. For example, in teaching map reading, 1SG Turner would share about his deployment with NATO to Bosnia in 1996 and time in Berlin. Cadets enjoyed hearing about Germany, where 1SG Turner guarded infamous Nazi Rudolph Hess at Spandau prison, and when cadets went to camp at Ft. Irwin, they would learn 1SG Turner had been Garrison Sergeants Major there. Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Tyrrell served in Vietnam in the Special Forces.
JROTC instruction includes military history, map reading and land navigation, physical fitness, drill and ceremony, marksmanship (pellet rifles), service learning in the community and volunteerism. Cadets attend mandatory events at the end of the school day. Formations typically run from 3:00-3:30 pm. After school activities include learning how to march, practicing for color guards and parades, rifle drills and air rifle range marksmanship practice. Monthly awards and promotion ceremonies also take place during this after school time. Those in athletics go to sports following JROTC.
A core element of participation is wearing the JROTC uniform, and cadets wear the uniform to school each Monday. Cadets are issued a full uniform at the beginning of school at no cost to the cadet, as well as a physical fitness uniform. The uniforms are funded by the U.S. Army. The program does not receive any funding from PUSD.
Students travel to area high schools to participate in competitions with other JROTCs, and attend JROTC camps. Competitions include markmanship, and drill and ceremony. Attending camp is a true challenge, negotiating obstacles such as rappelling using a rope the width of a pencil. (Thank you to Blair non-JROTC teachers who have supported our cadets by attending JROTC camp as chaperones!)
Participating in JROTC earns students PE credits, and as of 2020-21, also counts toward college entrance A-G requirements. Some years ago when PUSD JROTC programs were threatened with closure, Blair's 1SG Turner was the only PUSD JROTC instructor to earn a PE credential. He returned to school for the credential at his own expense while still working to ensure PE credit at Blair. 1SG Hicks is now also acquiring a PE credential.
Cadets are led by a student cadet in the position of Battalion Commander. Leadership and responsibility are hallmarks of a Battalion Commander, but all cadets can aspire to excellence in loyalty, honor and esprit de corp. JROTC cadets can include academic excellence in their purpose and direction, and some cadets have been full IB Diploma candidates and even valedictorian. Blair sports teams include many JROTC cadets, another example of cadet well-roundedness.
Another area cadets have volunteered in is emergency preparedness. In the past JROTC cadets organized Blair's and some other school's disaster bins, and cadets prepared emergency supplies for each Blair classroom. Cadets also canvassed the neighborhood to gather community support to pass bond measures to fund campus improvements at PUSD schools. Known for their reliability, Blair cadets have often volunteered during visits from our Beijing China sister-school students, with Chinese students shadowing cadets as they attend class.
For more about the curriculum, visit the U.S. Army JROTC site.
Interesting instructor stats:
1SG Hicks coached Blair girls' soccer his very first year at Blair, 2017-2018.
1SG Turner put 350,000 miles on his Harley motorcycle commuting to Blair. He carpooled by car when his son student taught at Blair, which was also while he was undergoing chemotherapy)