MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala --
A rural community in southern Ohio is among the newest recipients of an Air Force Junior ROTC (AFJROTC) unit. Cadets at Logan High School in Logan, Ohio, are starting the first full year of their AFJROTC program as a result of years of hard work from instructors, school staff members, and the students themselves.
“The school district started a [National Defense] Cadet Corps program four years ago,” said Retired U.S. Air Force Major Lance Roberts, a JROTC instructor at Logan High School. “It provided a lot of the military and discipline structure. I taught that class for a couple of years, and almost immediately we started having the conversation about turning this into JROTC.”
Roberts, who spent 22 years on active duty with the Air Force before becoming a teacher at Logan, applied to get approval for an Air Force program. Personnel from AFJROTC Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, visited the school during the 2021-22 academic year and were immediately impressed.
“They gave us a certification on site,” said Roberts. “The students in Cadet Corps had already laid the groundwork to ensure that, if a unit was started here, there was going to be interest in joining and enough cadets to support the program.”
Making the program into a JROTC unit brought resources and support from the Department of Defense. The Logan unit now has two instructors and 71 cadets as it starts its first full academic year. The students joined JROTC for a variety of reasons, from learning leadership and self-discipline to making friends.
“I wanted a program that was military-like, and had military structure,” said James Beatty, a student at Logan High School and the JROTC Corps Commander. “Going from Cadet Corps to JROTC opened up a lot of activities, and also opportunities for more community service events.”
The co-curricular activities offered through AFJROTC are referred to as Leadership Development Requirements, or LDRs. They include Color Guard, Drill Team, robotics, model rocketry, archery, academic bowl competitions, cybersecurity, and several others. The LDRs are popular with cadets, but they also teach leadership skills. Instructors supervise and certify the activities, but cadets are responsible for leading, planning, and organizing them.
“My favorite part will be the LDRs,” said Logan JROTC Executive Officer Emily Taulbee. “I’m hoping that we can get the Drill Team to a place where we can go to competitions. It’s really fun, it’s a great way to meet people, and make great friends and memories.”
Unlike Air Force ROTC, which is an officer recruiting and accessions program for college students, the purpose of JROTC is citizen development for high school students.
“Any type of program that involves kids choosing to better themselves is awesome to be a part of because you see them actively taking a role in becoming who they are,” said Roberts. “That’s been by far my favorite part of the job. Not only are they working on themselves and their own character and self-discipline but watching them take on projects and creating things that are incredible to see. They are actively leading groups around the school to voluntarily do things without any guidance from us, because that’s who they are becoming through this program.”
“I wanted to learn how to discipline myself and learn integrity,” said Logan JROTC cadet Xavier Hancock. “I wanted to learn that, when I’m doing something, how do I do it right and make it worth it. It really opened up a lot of doors for me to learn self-respect and what I need to do with my life to go in a forward path.”
Although some school activities focus solely on athletics, academics, or artistic talent, JROTC instructors and cadets feel this program has something for everyone.
“It brings camaraderie,” explained Roberts. “You’ll see a class with kids from all kinds of different backgrounds, different family situations, different interests and social groups, but when they step through our door, it doesn’t matter. They see each other as cadets.”
“No matter where you come from, you’re going to like something,” added Hancock.
“One of our goals is for students to connect with something in this school that makes them want to participate,” said Logan High School Principal Courtney Snipes. “For a lot of the students in JROTC, that has already become their main connection.”
The program has already made a noticeable impact on the rest of the school and the Logan community.
“The largest impact on the school has been a sense of pride,” said Snipes. “On Wednesdays, which is uniform day, there’s just a different feeling in the building that impacts everyone. Our students are out in the community doing lots of volunteer work. They basically adopted the Humane Society and are there all the time. We do a Veteran’s Day Breakfast, and even students that aren’t with JROTC see them do that and want to get involved with that too, so it’s created a newfound respect for this country.”
School administrators, cadets, and instructors all hope to continue to grow the program at Logan, not just in terms of size, but also in significance for the school and city.
“We’ve had lots of parents show interest in getting their kids into JROTC,” said Guidance Counselor Jane Hall. “We make sure they have that conversation with their kids as well as to what they feel are the reasons for doing it, and a lot of times it’s not about whether their child joins the military; they want that structure, that discipline instilled in their kids and they feel JROTC is a good place for them to start learning that.”
Snipes added, “I’m hoping to see JROTC in their state and national competitions in things like drill to become thought of the same way as any athletic event or theater event or musical event, with the full support and pride of the rest of the student body.”
There are currently 870 AFJROTC units in U.S. high schools, including several Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools at overseas military installations.