Thomson High and Middle School students got their first glimpse into military training when a group from Greenbrier High School's Naval JROTC program visited both campuses last week. Senior Naval Instructor Rob Brewer brought his four commanders to give a presentation to all students in eighth through eleventh grade to help them better understand the NJROTC program that will be offered for the first time at Thomson High next year. Mr. Brewer said the presentation was a first for his group, but they delivered like veterans.
Cadet Commanding Officer Andrew Woodberry, Cadet Executive Officer Raymond Branker, Drill Team Commander Sydney Sutter and Physical Training Team Commander Josh Glass, all students at Greenbrier, explained the details of the program and modeled uniforms.
"I'm glad I'm in ROTC," Cmd. Glass said in a speech to the freshman class. "I don't regret it. It's preparing me for my future, and I know you will enjoy it and you won't regret it."
Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps is a high school version of the college program that teaches students citizenship, patriotism, discipline and leadership skills along with fundamental military knowledge. Brewer explained that students who join JROTC are under no obligation to join the military. However, if they complete three years of JROTC and then join the military, they will begin at an E3 rank rather than the traditional E1.
"And that translates into a few hundred dollars more a month," Mr. Brewer said.
Cadets who complete three years in JROTC also are eligible to receive physical education and health credits for graduation, to apply for ROTC scholarships and nomination to a military academy.
The program at THS will be a Naval JROTC, but students who participate can go on to serve in any branch of service. Mr. Brewer said THS will have two instructors who are retirees with at least 20 years of active duty experience in the Navy, Coast Guard or Marines.
Cmd. Woodberry said NJROTC is a daily class with drill day on Mondays, Naval science and history on Tuesdays and Thursdays, uniform inspections on Wednesdays and physical training on Fridays.
In addition to their classes, Cmd. Woodberry said the students will participate in community service projects such as visiting veterans, picking up trash and doing work for the needy.
"And each year you get to dress up and go to the JROTC Ball It's like a prom, so it's pretty fancy," he said. "And in the summer, there's boot camp, but it's not as long as real boot camp. But it is pretty rigorous."
Other extracurricular teams for NJROTC students include drill, rifle, academics, color guard, PT and orienteering. Officer Branker said each of the teams participate in competitions. The rifle team uses pellet guns, and the orientation team tours Naval and Marine Corps bases.
"We went to Parris Island and we got to run through the same obstacle courses that the Marines use for boot camp," he said. "That's one of the coolest things I've ever done."
Cmd. Sutter explained that the color guard participated in raising the flag at football games and participated in community ceremonies and parades, along with the drill team.
"We bring home the most trophies of any other team in our school," she said proudly. "When you're in a competition, you're in there to win. You don't go there to try, you go to win."
Junior Will McGhee said he has considered military service before, but the NJROTC will give him the opportunity to find out if it's for him. After seeing the presentation, Will said he would like to be on the drill team."I signed up for it," said Will. "I've heard of other schools that had it, but I didn't think our school would ever have anything like this. I think it'll be a good thing."
Assistant Principal Lynn Cato said counselors have processed the registration forms at the high school, and 128 10th through 12th graders will be in the JROTC program in the fall. Ms. Cato said they have not finished processing the middle school forms, but they expect a good number of freshman participants, too.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do you have to cut your hair? Yes for males, no for females.
Do you have to join the military when you graduate? No.
Do you have to iron your uniforms? Yes.
Do you have to pay for your uniforms? No - the military provides the uniform.
Do females have to wear skirts? No, their uniforms offer a choice of pants or a skirt.
If you have bad hearing, can you be in JROTC? Yes.
Since JROTC enables you to start at E3, how high do the ranks go? Up to E9.
Can you fail the class? If you fail, it's because you are trying to fail. The only requirement is you have to be able to do PT.
How many push-ups are you required to do? The minimum is 40 in two minutes for males, 16 in two minutes for females.
Is there a weight limit? No. There is for active military duty, but for JROTC, you just have to be able to do the push-ups and sit-ups.
Do you have to keep your grades up? Yes, and those friendships you form in JROTC help you with that. Many of the cadets who have strengths in a certain subject help tutor a cadet who is weak in that area.
How fast do you have to run? It varies with the age and level.
Do you have to wake up early for it? JROTC is a class during your regular school time. During summer camp, the average wake-up time is 5 a.m., but there's no time during the school year.
Can you get scholarships for college? Yes, it does help.
Are you still allowed to play sports if you belong to it? Yes.