JROTC builds skills that mean success

Feb. 28, 2014 @ 09:04 PM

A group of Air Force Junior Officers’ Reserve Training Corps cadets stood in the gym of Northern Vance High School on Friday with straight backs and eyes fixed intently on the flight commander as they prepared to perform a drill sequence.

The cadets were observed by the JROTC Region 2 director, who came from Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama to evaluate the Vance County unit for its required three-year inspection.

“We have to go out and make sure everything is being conducted correctly and provide any advice we can to help the instructor,” said Sgt. David Richerson.

The unit passed the inspection, and the cadet corps portion received an exceeds standards ratings, the highest possible.

Richerson said he evaluated the facilities and infrastructure provided by the school, as well as the quality of the instructors and the curriculum.

But the most important aspect of the evaluation involves the cadets.

“We look at how well the cadet corps is operating, which includes several components,” he said.

Richerson said he examines the cadets’ appearance in uniform, involvement in school events and participation in community service.

Danny Whittacre, a senior at Northern Vance, said the community service aspect of the JROTC program has helped build his character during his four years as a cadet.

“I think for me, it has given me a sense of purpose,” he said.

Danny’s father, Dan Whittacre, is a retired U.S. Air Force Officer who is now a JROTC instructor at Northern Vance.

“Our mandate is to create citizens of character,” Dan Whittacre said.

Sherie Whitfield, a sophomore in his first year of JROTC, said he has learned lessons about citizenship and leadership through the program.

“I did a little community service before, but with JRTOC, I’m in it 100 percent,” he said. “We painted at the animal shelter and picked up trash along the highway, so we learn how to be a productive member of society.”

Dan Whittacre said his curriculum includes leadership education, life skills and even an aerospace science component.

Four years ago, there were only about 100 students enrolled in the program. This year, there are close to 200 cadets.

“We are excited,” he said. “The growth has been phenomenal.”

Richerson said there are 870 Air Force JROTC programs worldwide, which includes 75 in North Carolina.

He is responsible for evaluating Air Force JROTC programs at 147 high schools.

“We want cadets who take this program to become better citizens,” he said. “It is not a recruiting program for the military; we are a citizenship development program.”

Richerson said the drill routines enforce discipline, teamwork and attention to detail.

“Those three skills right there will translate into success anywhere,” he said.

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.