Of the many clubs and activities at Hayes, one of the most visible, but continuously overlooked, is the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or simply JROTC.
“The [ROTC] program now numbers almost 900 units worldwide,” Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Russ Anible said. “Of the original 20 the air force activated in 1966, ten are still active, which makes us one of the ten oldest units in the world, in the program. We’re very proud of that; and, of course, we want to be around for years to come. In two years we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary.”
The JROTC is not just for those interested in a military profession. It is funded, in portion, by the Air Force, which is why students (called cadets) wear the blue military uniform once a week. While next year, first year cadets are allowed the choice of wearing the uniform, they will still be held to military grooming standards and wear an Air Force t-shirt once a week. Second through fourth year cadets must wear the uniform.
“The charter given to us by Congress was to develop citizens of good character. That’s what we’re all about,” Anible said. “Truth be told, the majority of our graduating seniors do not enter any of the armed services, which is fine with us because that’s not what the program’s primary goal is.”
Despite its limited military involvement, some members of JROTC do desire a career in the armed forces.
“[JROTC] teaches me really good leadership qualities for the future,” senior Andrew Kennedy, the JROTC Corps Commander, said. “I [also] want to pursue a career in the military, so I feel like this is best for me.”
The JROTC program covers a variety of topics. The classes taught emphasise developing public speaking skills, effective communication skills, practical skills such as personal finance, and other topics people need as they transition into adulthood. The main academic program for this year is “the science of flight,” with emphasis upon the physiology of flight and the things that happen to the body when subjected to high altitudes.
“Each year is a little different. We are tweaking our curriculum a little bit this year,” Anible said. “We have the freedom to [change the course] given the fact that it’s an elective course, we have a wealth of materials, and we’re able to change it out time to time, keep it fresh.”
The main emphasis of the JROTC program is to build the character of its cadets and make each member the best citizen that they can be.
“I’ve seen people that were bad in school go from bad to really good. It actually does help, more than people think,” Kennedy said. “It teaches us things for the future that normal classes really don’t.”
There are also many other opportunities for extracurricular activities revolving around JROTC. These skills range from volunteer work to drill team, color guard to air rifle marksmanship.
“I believe that the real fun, and to a large degree the real value of the program, lies in extracurricular voluntary participation,” Anible said. “The ones who really get into it, who really get into the volunteer extracurricular aspect of it, those are the ones that appear to have the most fun; they appear to derive the most benefit from the program, maturity, confidence, team building, leadership skills, and that’s really what the program is all about.”
Along with the color guard that presents the flag before each home football game and during some assemblies, one of the most recognized programs from JROTC is the drill team.
“The drill team is voluntary, but the drill team, for those who join it, is a lot of fun and develops a lot of great teamwork skills, the same as any athletic event,” Anible said. “The beautiful thing about drill is that you don’t have to be strong or fast or tall or muscular or anything like that to excel. you just have to be willing to focus, concentrate, practice hard, [and] work hard because it’s all about precision synchronized marching.”
The next drill meet competition will occur on February 14th. It will include at least ten teams from all over central and southwest Ohio as well as a team from Pennsylvania. This will be the 12th annual drill meet held at Hayes.
Although the JROTC program works hard, they also like to have fun. While those that join the Air Rifle Marksmanship Program, color guard, or drill team enjoy their time in it, they are participate in a variety of field trips, picnics, parades, and banquets.
“I think it’s closer than any club here… you spend all four years together,” Kennedy said. “That’s probably the best thing, just having everybody around you.”
Whether interested in pursuing a military career or simply wanting to become a better citizen or leader, the AFJROTC program is available for not just Hayes students, but also students of Big Walnut, Buckeye Valley, Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty, and Olentangy Orange High Schools.
“Cadets… come back a year or two later and they will tell us that the citizenship and leadership and teambuilding skills they learned in our program applied anywhere,” Anible said. “It applied in college, it applied in civilian career, and when we hear that, we know we’re accomplishing our mission.”