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Help Wanted: DoD Seeks JROTC Instructors

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2001 – Uncle Sam needs you. Again. This time, he's seeking military men and women to instruct high school Junior ROTC students.

DoD needs retired military officers and NCOs to teach citizenship and leadership, while instilling self-esteem, teamwork and discipline. Pentagon officials say there will be about 1,200 openings over the next three years.

By fiscal 2005, the program will employ about 7,000 instructors, according to Navy Cmdr. Yvette BrownWahler, director for JROTC in DoD's Accession Policy Office at the Pentagon. In the next few years the services could struggle to find qualified instructors to fill new vacancies created by the expansion of the JROTC program, she said.

JROTC Connects Military with Today's Youth

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2001 -- The Junior ROTC program has "well-served" the military and the nation, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wrote in a recent letter to Congress.

JROTC "connects the military with local communities while making positive and lasting impressions on today's youth," he said in a letter to Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. The program "influences youth to stay in high school and graduate -- something the military has long valued."

In fiscal 2001, Congress provided the services additional funding of $14 million to accelerate establishing more JROTC units. Thurmond and Sen. Bob Graham of Florida have introduced a bill to repeal the statutory limit on the number of JROTC units DoD can establish and maintain.

In 1995, Congress raised the number of authorized JROTC units from 1,600 to 3,500. By 1999, the program had reached about 2,200 units, but the services did not have funds authorized for more. In 2000, the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed a letter of commitment to provide the funds necessary to reach the statutory maximum.

DoD recently approved funding for fiscal 2001 to 2005 to raise the total number of units to 3,500. At present more than 600 schools are on service waiting lists for JROTC units.

DoD officials are currently assessing JROTC as part of DoD's Spring 2001 Defense Program Review. Should the review reveal a need for new legislative authorities, Rumsfeld said, DoD would initiate legislative proposals to effect such changes.

"In any event," the secretary said, "we will remove policy obstacles that may prevent services, such as the Marine Corps, from expanding their JROTC presence."

If the review reveals "an imbalance between schools requesting units and budget authority to accommodate unit activation," he said, DoD would "continue to base the timing of activations on a variety of fair-play standards."

This would include time on waiting lists, he said, and "the type of geographical diversity that assures a good national spread of our military representation."

Although JROTC is not considered a recruiting tool, defense officials say about 40 percent of high school graduates with more than 2 years in the program end up with some military affiliation or continue with community service. They may enlist on active duty or in a reserve component, or enter an officer precommissioning program.

The program costs DoD about $500 per student, which Pentagon officials say is a modest investment in the future of today's youth. DoD's overall cost for fiscal 2000 was $211 million. The budget for fiscal 2001 is $215 million.

More than 450,000 students participate in JROTC units at 2,900 high schools across the country. Each unit with up to 150 students has two instructors, and the service assigns a third instructor to units with more than 150 cadets.

DoD recently approved funding over the next five years to raise the total number of units to 3,500, the maximum authorized by Congress in 1992. At present, more than 600 schools are on service waiting lists for JROTC units.

"Expansion -- even beyond 3,500 -- is extremely important because we want to be able to reach out to America's youth," BrownWahler said. "As the president says, 'No child should be left behind,' and there are a lot of high school students out there who really want something different."

JROTC offers students an alternative lifestyle, BrownWahler said.

"Parents will come up and say to us, 'This program changed my daughter's life. She was into drugs and alcohol, on her way probably to jail. In one year, her whole life has turned around.'

"We hear that kind of thing all the time," the commander said. "We hear it from the faculty, from guidance counselors and even the instructors themselves."

The services are now increasing the total number of JROTC units incrementally, BrownWahler said. The Army is adding 50 units per year to reach a total of 1,645 units. The Marine Corps is adding 10 units per year to reach 260. The Air Force has slated funding for about 50 more units per year to reach a total of 945.

"The Navy, because they received additional funding from Congress last year, is opening 75 units this year and 25 units next year," she noted. The Navy objective is to reach 700 units.

With the additions, the total number of schools with JROTC programs would be 3,550 if the services execute their expansion plans fully. DoD, anticipating the program's continued growth, might consider asking Congress to raise the statutory limit to about 5,000 units by fiscal 2004, she said.

DoD officials aim to ensure fair and equitable unit distribution. She said Southeast and Texas have many units, while coverage in the Northeast is spottier.

Opening JROTC units in inner-city and rural schools is often difficult, because it's hard to find instructors willing to work in them, she noted. DoD has launched legislative initiatives to provide monetary bonuses to attract instructors for those difficult areas.

"One instructor only made it three months," BrownWahler recalled. "He just couldn't handle the pressure any more. He wanted to stay for the kids, but the rest of the school was just kind of falling apart."

"It's difficult, too," she said. "In some places like Philadelphia and Chicago, instructors are required to live within the city limits. Sometimes that's a financial struggle for them."

For the military retirees who become instructors, BrownWahler said, JROTC is a chance to make a difference in their communities. And, she stressed, they "really do make a difference."

During a recent drill competition in Pensacola, Fla., she said, JROTC instructors "beamed" as they watched youth of all backgrounds "all marching together and all displaying the same sort of pride at one time. They take that back to their community."

Some instructors, however, find teaching JROTC requires an adjustment. "It's very difficult when you've been working with adults most of your active duty life and then all of a sudden you're working with 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds, trying to boost them beyond their perceived limits.

"Sometimes they only get the students one hour out of every day and maybe some time in the afternoon," she said. "It's really critical that during that one hour, they show them that life can be different from what they've seen so far."

JROTC gives high school students "something to look forward to, to look up to, to work toward," BrownWahler stressed. The program aims to make high school students better citizens and give them a sense of belonging and self- discipline.

"We try to instill in these young people, the same American values that service men and women have," the commander said. "The instructors are very important in providing that linkage."

Since 1964, each service branch has offered a JROTC program that includes classroom instruction and one to two weeks of summer training at a military base. Each service has its own core curriculum.

"The Air Force teaches aerospace science," BrownWahler said. "The Navy may be naval science. The Army may be military customs and traditions. Then, they vary their courses with the opportunity to practice and compete in drill competitions.

"Instructors also do a lot of things to help kids with academic problems," she said. "They're able to transcend the curriculum to fit the students' needs."

Retired active duty officers and enlisted personnel are eligible to apply, she said. There are no age limits. Processing time can range from six months to a year. People may apply while they are still on active duty.

"The service secretaries can hire O-4s to O-10s and E-6s to E-9s," BrownWahler said. "Sometimes they take retired E-5s. I've met some instructors who have been doing this for 20 years."

Each service has about a seven- to 10-day instructor training program. Once trained and certified by the service, it's up to school districts to actually hire JROTC instructors.

Once hired, instructors continue to receive their military retired pay. The service branch and school district then split the difference that returns the instructors' pay back to active duty levels.

"If your pay was $60,000 on active duty, for example," BrownWahler said, "$30,000 would come from your retired pay. The other $30,000 would be paid half by the service and half by the school district."

For more information on JROTC instructor opportunities, go to DoD's Transportal Web site at www.dodtransportal.org. Then go to Internet Career Links and then to Specialized Job Search Links, where the four service branches are listed. Or, go to the service Web sites and type in "JROTC" as the search word.

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