“At your command! Face the platoon to the right, Command!” said Lieutenant Colonel Tim Lambert at 10 a.m. every Wednesday morning.
“Right, Face!” replies a class of enthusiastic cadets, ready to begin an intensive hour of Physical Training.
Clad in sharp, navy-blue uniforms, the JROTC cadets stand in attention every Thursday at Chantilly High School’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps ground. The class includes seven AHS students, who stand in complete attention, listening intently for their Lieutenant Colonel’s next command.
The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program began in 1916 under the National Defense Act, as a measure to be implemented in high schools across the US. The program was revitalized in 1964 under the ROTC Vitalization Act, which provided the programs with scholarship funds and more resources and training for cadets.
JROTC is a far-reaching program across the United States. Army JROTC exists in over 1645 schools in the US, and in several American schools around the world, with more than 4,000 instructors and 281,000 cadets enrolled globally. The Army is closely followed by the Air Force JROTC program, with 102,000 cadets and over 1,900 instructors. Navy JROTC is also very popular, with over 620 schools and over 81,505 cadets enrolled. Marine Corps JROTC has around 260 units.
“I joined Army JROTC when I was in Japan,” said senior Zac Robinson, who lived overseas for five years. “It was the most enjoyable experience of my life. I went to Mt. Fuji with my unit and [we] camped there, and navigated through the wilderness. We’ve traveled and performed in the Far East, like Guam and Korea. We even did the Honor Guard—it was the best.”
Physical fitness is also a major component of the JROTC program. “During training we do PT (Physical Training) testing; push ups, sit ups, and a timed mile and a half run. We also do line drills and formations,” said Amy Dang.
The JROTC program is also reputed to develop good citizenship, leadership, self-reliance, communication, basic military skills and respect for the armed forces in the cadets.
“Students are also required to dress up once a week, and know the chain of commands, ranks, and military history,” said junior Miguel Mota.
The JROTC program continues through college as ROTC, a college-level elective course which fosters problem-solving skills, strategic planning, and professional ethics among older and more experienced cadets.
FCPS currently offers JROTC programs in seven high schools—Chantilly (Air Force), Edison (Army), Hayfield (Army), Herndon (Navy), Mount Vernon (Marines), South Lakes (Army), and West Potomac (Army). Of these programs, only Air Force JROTC at Chantilly Academy is open to AHS students as a valid course. “I took Air Force JROTC this year because AHS didn’t offer any other JROTC courses,” said Mota.
For many students, JROTC programs serve as an escape from the humdrum of schoolwork. “The best part about JROTC is the 40-minute bus ride from AHS to Chantilly,” Mota said.
JROTC offers excellent career opportunities for just about anyone. “I’m planning to join the Air Force to pursue application intelligence,” said Dang. “They offer really great opportunities, and great benefits for the cadets,” she added.
“I’m hoping to study actual combat, and maybe engineering,” said Mota, who hopes to join the Marines after graduation.
But students who are actually doing JROTC argue that there is something beyond the opportunities and benefits that it offers. “The best part of joining the Air Force is that you get to represent [your school], and you get recognition for doing something great,” said Dang. This spirit of being a good community leader, an ethical person and a dedicated soldier is an ideal that AHS students continue to strive for as they prepare for a military career through JROTC.