Air Force Junior ROTC cadets discuss their experience

“Welcome to Air Force JROTC. The mission of AFJROTC is to ‘Develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community.’”

The first line found on Air University’s website welcomes any and all to join their Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC) program. The last two years, Elkhart Memorial’s JROTC program has chosen to do just that.

The Air Force JROTC program covers a lot of ground and looks at many facets of life in the Air Force, from drill instruction, to military bearing, to leadership courses, to aerospace science.

The instructor at Memorial is retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Scott Rutledge, who served for 25 years. Through the program, students learn life skills, in addition to military skills.

“They learn about self-discipline. They learn self-respect, to be able to be on time, integrity first, service before self, and excellence in what we do are the core values that the Air Force has that we try to instill also in this course,” Rutledge said.

But the core military aspects of the Air Force are also a key part of the program.

“They teach what the Air Force is about,” said Memorial senior and cadet, Tomas Rodriguez. “They teach us the history of Air Force, in case we want to join the Air Force. They give us our own uniforms. They teach us ranks and grades, everything that goes with the military, we learn it all.”

Through the program, student cadets are trained in citizenship, promotion of community service, personal responsibility, character, and self-discipline, with no obligation to later join the Air Force or any other military branch, though many do choose to join for this reason.

“I wanted to join the military, and I heard that it [JROTC] was about the military, so I figured it would be a good class to take to learn more about it before I signed up,” said senior and cadet, Nathan Hupp.

“I came in here because I thought it would be an interesting class, just to discipline myself,” said Rodriguez. “Now, I’m thinking about what branch to join.”

While involved, each cadet is clearly taught the valuable traits previously mentioned, but also discover more about themselves, and those surrounding them, whether it be the power of camaraderie, or the power of order and discipline.

“I’ve learned a lot about discipline, but also a lot about leadership, and what it takes to be a good leader, and then just the military basics about the uniform and just the different aspects of that and marching,” said Hupp. “It is a class, but it doesn’t feel like one. It feels more like a family almost, with everyone.”

“The thing that I love about it is that it’s nice and orderly,” said Rodriguez “You’ve got your chain of command. You report to certain students. This is a cadet-run program. The teachers are supposed to barely do anything, we’re supposed to do almost everything in this class. We have certain PT [Physical Training] ‘motivational’ exercises. It brings a lot of people closer together.”

Though principally military-based, the benefits of JROTC involvement stretched much farther than what happens within the classroom, something even the most unlikely student could benefit from.

“Anybody who wants to join this is going to learn leadership, teambuilding, teamwork, and learn their own kind of discipline,” said Rodriguez. “Requirements for joining this class is that, you should be on time, wear your uniform when you are required to, and you must follow orders as given. You’ve got your own chain of command and that’s how everything gets done.”