In the News
Saluting New Hampshire's Junior ROTC students
New Hampshire Union Leader Story on Junior ROTC students.
May 26, 2019
By Frank Edelblut and Maj. Gen. David Mikolaities
There are many paths available to New Hampshire students. At nine high schools across the Granite State, students are benefitting from the Junior ROTC program.
Given the similar names, some people confuse JROTC with the college-level Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). JROTC is a leadership program that focuses on academics, citizenship, physical fitness, and public service. Perhaps most importantly, outside of class work, JROTC activities are run by the cadets themselves. These programs are similar in nature to the Navy Sea Cadets, Civil Air Patrol, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts where a premium is placed on leader development.
The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines all fund Junior ROTC programs in American high schools, and all four branches are active in New Hampshire. The branch pays for uniforms, books, classroom materials, and half of the instructors' salaries. The New Hampshire National Guard provides mentoring opportunities, supports JROTC leadership development through our facilities, and provides hands-on demonstrations. JROTC instructors are members of the local school's faculty.
Winnacunnet High School in Hampton runs a Marine JROTC program. Retired Lt. Col. Mike Antonio served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 22 years. In his seven years as the Senior Marine Instructor at Winnacunnet, the program has ranged from 85 to 110 cadets. Master Sergeant Mario Real is finishing his first year at Winnacunnet after 20 years in the Marines. Antonio says the program builds camaraderie.
The course load is heavy on citizenship, personal responsibility, civics, and military history. Cadets amassed 2,000 hours of community service, including the Special Olympics Penguin Plunge. The unit also raised $4,500 to send two Special Olympians to Seattle, and raised donations to send 40 cadets to Washington D.C. in April.
The Navy JROTC program at Manchester West High School started in 1971, making it the second-oldest such program in the Northeast. Retired Capt. Arthur Stauff spent 34 years in the Navy, and is finishing his fifth year at West.
"It's a citizenship and leadership program, not a military recruiting program," Stauff says. "We use a military structure and chain of command. I provide academic instruction and supervision, but the cadets learn by doing."
There are currently 85 students in the West Navy JROTC program. They take courses on naval science and history, perform as a color guard and as exhibition drill teams, and do community service.
"We have two Sudanese girls, and an Iraqi girl. We’re a family in the school. We take care of our own. We mentor our own," Stauff says.
At Spaulding High School in Rochester, retired Major Dan Heeter has been running the Air Force JROTC program for the past 11 years. Retired Senior Master Sergeant Joe Kerrigan has been teaching at Spaulding for 16 years. Spaulding’s program began in 1971 as one of the first 100 AFJROTC programs in the nation.
Cadets take seven courses over four years, ranging from the history of aviation to space science and aeroscience. Heeter also runs a private ground pilot school at nearby Skyhaven Airport. Cadets volunteer in local soup kitchens and serve area veterans.
The Air Force JROTC program at Salem High School stood up in 2000, and has 102 cadets this year. Cadets accumulated 1,700 hours of community service this year. Salem’s drill teams competed nationally in Washington D.C and the Civilian Marksmanship Program will resume competition next year, The Kitty Hawk Air Society chapter works with guidance counselors to tutor other high school students.
During the past year, New Hampshire National Guard representatives attended the White Mountains Regional High School Army JROTC military ball in Whitefield, provided facility support to the Pinkerton Academy Air Force JROTC program at their Center Strafford Training Site, and most recently provided orientation flights in one of their Black Hawk helicopters for the Dover High School Navy JROTC program. One of the pilots, Chief Warrant Officer Waring, encouraged the cadets "to remain mindful of the choices they make and not succumb to peer pressure."
JROTC cadets can earn credit towards faster promotion should they go on to military careers, though recruiting has never been part of JROTC's mission. There is no requirement or expectation that a JROTC cadet join the military. Stauff says 80 percent of his cadets go on to higher education.
JROTC is a tremendous resource for New Hampshire students. It allows high schools to add to their science and history curricula, and gives students the opportunity to learn to be better citizens and leaders. We salute New Hampshire’s graduating JROTC seniors.
Frank Edelblut is Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education. Major General David Mikolaities is the Adjutant General of the New Hampshire National Guard.