The Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program at Lewis County High School is strong, but still needs more members, according to Lt. Colonel Jack Dennison.
Dennison and Master Sgt. Bill Linger are in charge of the program, with 69 currently in JROTC.
Even though 69 students are in JROTC, the program needs an additional five to six students to continue. Dennison said the Air Force puts JROTC programs on probation that do not recruit and retain 10 percent of the student population of the school.
The Air Force will review the program on Oct. 10.
“We’re so close but going in the right direction,” Dennison added.
He said they are looking into adding an air rifle team for next year, which may boost enrollment.
JROTC lost six to program completion last year, but have retained a majority of returning students. One of their first exercises this year was the flag retirement ceremony at the high school’s athletic field.
Aside from participating at football games, cadets will read a timeline of events from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks over the intercom on Sept. 11. Cadets will be given background history on the tragedy prior to the reading of the timeline.
JROTC is a four-year program, with 33 freshmen enrolled so far. Those 33 participated in a Skype session between LCHS and Robert L. Bland Middle School last year.
Dennison noted that he and Linger are not recruiters, but they do encourage students to go out into the world and see what is there.
He added that students who complete JROTC may choose to enlist. If they do, they enter at a higher rank and higher pay grade. This could add between $5,000 and $7,000 to their pockets over the course of enlistment.
This year’s officers are Commander Bobby Fisher, Skylar Jones, Joseph Hewitt, Caleb Seckman, and Colton Brand. All are juniors except Brand and Fisher.
“It’s a pretty good cadre,” Dennison said.
JROTC will lose roughly 10-12 seniors this school year. Juniors Jones, Hewitt, Seckman, Brand, Letisha Casto, and Andrew Smith, among others, will be part of the program for the 2018-19 school year.
With numbers so close to the 10 percent mark, cadets have been talking to their friends about joining.
Dennison surmised that part of the reason students were hesitant is because JROTC is “a little more conservative” than other student groups.
Dennison said JROTC is a great program, where cadets lead by example.
“The citizenship part of the program is so important,” he said.
Joining JROTC does not automatically enlist any student into a military branch.
Dennison stated that students, mostly in their junior year, choose career paths that are generally focused on college, Fred Eberle Technical School, or career and technical courses through the high school and JROTC.
JROTC cadets will participate in Veteran’s Day, athletic games, and a Raider Challenge in October. The challenge encompasses field exercises, rope bridge obstacles, and relays, among other physical exercises.