In “‘Not’ military recruitment, but quite like it” (Nov. 28), the authors commented on the suitability of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs in St. Paul’s Highland Park High School. Though I respect their opinion, I would like to offer some additional facts about which the authors may have been unaware.
I am privileged to command the 3rd Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command responsible for the leadership, administration and management of both Senior and Junior Army ROTC in a 10-state region. This region includes Minnesota. Our brigade is present on over 100 college campuses and 118 high schools in this area. To be clear, I understand Highland Park is not applying for an Army JROTC program. Each military service manages its own programs under the auspices of the Department of Defense. I can only offer my perspective on JROTC from an Army point of view.
Junior and Senior ROTC are two distinct programs. College-level or Senior ROTC (SROTC) is designed to produce commissioned officers for our armed services. Army ROTC is active on just under 1,000 college campuses and accounts for producing 70 percent of our officer corps. JROTC is a leadership and citizenship program present in 1,700 high schools with tens of thousands participating students.
Instructors assigned to JROTC are retired officers and noncommissioned officers. At a minimum, one retired officer and noncommissioned officer (NCO) will be present in each high school. The number of instructors increases in proportion to the number of participating students. Retired officers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree while NCOs must have at least an associate degree. All have completed at least 20 years of active federal service. There are some exceptions to these general rules based on available manning, particularly in geographically isolated areas, but they are few and far between. The Army provides these instructors on a cost-shared basis. The Army pays half of the instructors’ salary.
Our investment in the youth of America is reaping a great reward. In statistics available as recently as the 2014 school year, JROTC students graduate at a higher rate (93 percent to 83 percent) and have lower rates of indiscipline (1.7 percent to 5.2 percent), higher GPA (2.91 to 2.72) and a lower dropout rate (less than 1 percent to 8 percent) than their non-JROTC peers. Collectively, JROTC students completed more than 9 million hours of community service during the academic year.
Without question, the examples of our retired service members have an influence on these young people, but in no way is JROTC portrayed as a substitute for recruitment. In the same 2014 school year, in an exit survey of our graduating seniors, 20 percent of our students expressed some interest in military service. Whether they acted on this interest is not known, but we do know that the Army offered about 1,000 college, full-tuition, highly competitive scholarships to JROTC students from all services to pursue an officer’s commission in SROTC programs.
The Armed Services are one of many options for our graduating high school seniors.
JROTC provides many opportunities for young citizens. It is one of many available to high school students, but its track record provides sufficient evidence that it may be one of the best leadership development and citizenship-focused programs we have.
Col. Andrew Morgado is commander of the 3rd Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command in Great Lakes, Illinois.