NJROTC Focuses on Leadership & Discipline

NJROTC Focuses on Leadership & Discipline
Posted on 12/11/2018
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The HSWCHS NJROTC (Navy Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps) unit is the oldest NJROTC program in the state of Arkansas, established in March of 1969.  NJROTC serves as a character and leadership development program nationwide for high school students. New instructors to Hot Springs include Lieutenant Commander Sean Garrett and Senior Chief David Patti, both of whom bring distinguished Navy careers with them to the classroom. Their focus is on building disciplined, service-minded students, who are prepared for leadership and careers in whatever fields they choose. Currently, 115 HSWCHS students are part of the program. The HSWCHS NJROTC Color Guard is requested to events across the community and central Arkansas area. In competitions, our teams were also among finalists last year in physical fitness and air rifle meets.

High school students enrolled in NJROTC are called “Cadets.” NJRTOC fulfills health and PE credits for first-year students, and is considered an elective course for second through fourth year students at HSWCHS. Lessons require Cadets to collaborate, reflect, develop critical thinking skills, and integrate content with other disciplines. LCDR Garrett is also dedicating considerable student time to studying the rich military history of Hot Springs, and the service and practices of several heroes that have graduated from the Hot Springs School District including Rear Admiral Frederick Julian Becton, Lieutenant Paul Riley,  and Sergeant Major Alford L. McMichael (learn more about their careers, below).

“We are another option for students to belong to a supportive group and learn specialized skills, and schools can’t offer enough of those. The more that we as educators can do to give kids options, the better,” says LCDR Garrett. “In NJROTC, students are exposed to strict rules regarding character and attitude, general behavior, appearance, manners, physical fitness, and work ethic. These are skills that are important to any career they choose, whether they plan to begin working immediately after graduation, or attend college, or enlist in the military, or all of the above.”

The requirements to be part of HSWCHS NJROTC are as follows: 1) Student must be a U.S. citizen; 2) Student must maintain a 2.5 grade point average; 3) Student must be qualified to participate in school physical fitness; and 4) Student must be free of legal involvements from 9th - 12th grade. One class period per day, and up to three 1 ½ hour after school practices per week are required of members. Beyond curriculum requirements, NJROTC members are part of Armed Drills, Unarmed Drills, Color Guard, and the Air Rifle Program. NJROTC Cadets are also charged with maintaining the status of the American flag at the front entrance to HSWCHS (a duty of which LCDR Garrett says he never has to remind them of).

“It is important to remember that our job as instructors is to build a student-run organization. That’s the best way for Cadets to learn leadership skills. We show them how to build each other up as a team, and support each other as they progress through the program,” says LCDR Garrett.

Elizabeth Wimberly is a senior, and has been in the program since 9th grade. She has earned the rank of Lieutenant.  “NJROTC matters to me because it gives me an academic background through naval knowledge and it provides a stable environment through academics and leadership. It also provides discipline throughout the entire unit. It has provided me with a great family via friends.  I have had a great experience through traveling and being part of teams - like at our competitions. It provides you with understanding of real world problems,” she said. Elizabeth is planning to attend the University of Memphis Honors College (Memphis, Tennessee) and is applying for an NROTC Scholarship.

Maya Hopps is a senior, and has been in the program for three years. Maya has earned the rank of Petty Officer First Class. “NJROTC has meant a lot to me because it provided stability to me through our team. For a lot of what we do - if you don’t work together - it doesn’t fall together,” she said.  Maya also discussed the family environment. “You always have an opportunity to talk to someone about your problems, and to help other kids. Each person has an individual role and comes together to play one big part as the unit, and that is special. Maya has been accepted to two colleges and is considering her options.

Kayla Fox is a senior, and has been in the program since 9th grade. Kayla is the unit’s Commanding Officer, and has earned the rank of Lieutenant Commander. “The first reason I chose the program was because I saw a cute boy spinning a rifle. I decided to stay because I was a shy kid, and I gained a voice here. I gained confidence, and the eventual ability to lead and help someone else,” she says.  “We do a lot of problem solving, and communicating ... We have fun, but we instill discipline. No matter what our members want to do, we encourage them to be passionate about it, and support them.” Kayla will be attending Southern Arkansas University at Camden in the Welding Program.

The three also shared stories about meeting students from across the U.S. at Leadership Camp, available to NJROTC students each summer. Leadership Camp is a seven-day course that focuses on high physical exercise and competition, team building and leadership skills, and collaboration. NJROTC Cadets also have opportunities to travel and compete at events across the state, tour Navy vessels and military sites in the region, and host special member-only events like the NJROTC Christmas Ball.

What’s next for HSWCHS NJROTC? On February 12, an Area Management Inspection takes place. Cadets will practice through that time to ensure that all marching, drilling, special projects and other skills are in place to receive the highest grade possible from the visiting Commander.

Who are a few HSSD graduates, who are also military heroes?

Rear Admiral Frederick Julian Becton was a decorated U.S. Navy Officer and is best remembered for commanding the destroyer USS Laffey during an intense Japanese kamikaze attack in WWII.

Lieutenant Paul Riley was honored for heroism and highest achievement in the Battle of Midway (also WWII) and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, then (posthumously) the Navy Cross, The Purple Heart, and the Presidential Unit Citation.

Alford L. McMichael is a retired U.S. Marine who served as the 14th Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps from 1999 to 2003. He was also the first Senior Non-Commissioned Officer for Allied Command Operations for NATO. McMichael retired from the Marine Corps in 2006 after 36 years of service. He received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and (2) Meritorious Service Medals.

NJROTC students may qualify for college scholarships through participation in the program. Should NJROTC students choose to enlist in the military, they may also qualify for higher rank upon enlistment. Learn more about NJROTC, here. Learn more about our Hot Springs World Class High School, here.
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