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March 6, 2014

JROTC off to a good start in HamCo-97 cadets enrolled in program

Jasper — Lieutenant Colonel Darrell Davis, who oversees the ROTC program at Hamilton County High School, offered an annual briefing to the school board at their Feb. 10 meeting.

“This is my 19th year, if anybody’s asking,” Davis proudly said.

He brought with him three cadets from the high school. First up to speak was Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Burnett, a senior at HCHS and group commander of the AFJROTC program. He explained that cadets have leadership education during 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th periods.

“The objectives of AFJROTC are to educate and train high school cadets in citizenship; promote community service; instill responsibility, character and self-discipline; and provide instruction in the fundamentals of air and space science,” Burnett explained.

Some of the programs they participate in are FL-943 Summer Camp, Cadet Officer School at the Citadel, leadership conferences and Academy summer schools.

Cadet Major Ethan Shackelford is second in command and was second to speak. He said he is involved in various community service activities at the high school.

“My future is to plan on going into the Marine Corps,” he said.

Some of the community service activities the AFJROTC are involved in are care packages for soldiers, holiday services, a tutoring program at Kitty Hawk Air Society, Drill Team and Color Guard, assisting the vterans service coordinator with the construction of Veterans Memorial Park in Jasper and refurbishing the sign for VFW Post 8095.

“It looks really nice,” Shackelford said of the sign. “If you ever get a chance, go out there and see it.”

The main goal of the AFJROTC, Shackelford explained, “is to instill in students in United States secondary educational institutions the value of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment.”

Short term goals, he continued, are to place in the top three in drill meets, aid students with careers, college and the military, earn the Distinguished Unit Award, have a 100 percent physical fitness pass rate, and have at least two fundraisers a year.

Cadet Captain Nola Baltazar is also the Executive Commander of the unit.

“I am also the reigning Miss HCHS,” said Baltazar. “I participate in three varsity sports; soccer, softball and volleyball. I have been invited to attend the Coast Guard Academy summer seminar at the Citadel and the Naval Academy seminar.”

Baltazar said long term goals are to help all seniors graduate with a diploma, create tutoring classes to help cadets improve their academic standing, increase their enrollment and community service projects, continue their drill team competitions and improve Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) scores.

Additional activities the cadets participate in, Baltazar said, are parades, potlucks, having fun with paintball, visiting nursing homes and elementary schools, and participating in the AFJROTC softball tournament, of which they placed second last year.

With funding having been cut for all JROTC units nationwide, Baltazar said fundraising is a must, but she could still say, “The future of our unit is looking very bright.”

This year, the Hamilton County JROTC surpassed the 10 percent rule with 97 cadets enrolled in the program.

“That is almost one-third of the high school population,” Baltazar said.

Col. Davis closed by saying, “As you can see, the students are not only involved in the school, but outside the school, as well. That’s great,” he added. “That’s what this program is designed to do, not just military because all of them will not go into the military. All of them will not go to college, but they will get some benefit from being in this program three to four years.”

Last year, eight HCHS cadets enlisted in the military; six in the U.S. Army, one in the U.S. Marines and one in the U.S. Navy.

“Out of 13 senior cadets that graduated, that’s a pretty good number,” Davis said.

Winston Crosby, who was last year’s unit commander, is at the Citadel this year, Davis said, and he just made the dean’s list this past semester.

There are 18 seniors in the program this year at HCHS.

“Three of those are already enlisted in the Air Force and one plans to go in the Marines,” said Davis. “So, we’re off to a good start already.”

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