Aerospace and beyond

Habitat for Humanity project, October 2011

When you hear “Junior ROTC,” what do you think of? Marching? Military studies? Although its name suggests its military heritage, the reality of these Department of Defense-affiliated high school programs is that they’re much more mainstream curriculum than we might think.

Junior ROTC traces its origins to the National Defense Act of 1916, but experienced substantial growth in this country following the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964. School units are set up under the structure of their parent branch; Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force. Programs are partly funded by the DoD, subsidizing instructor salaries, cadet uniforms, equipment and textbooks.

The Fargo Public Schools began its Air Force JROTC program in the fall of 1969 at North High School. Today it is based out of South High, but has students enrolled from South, Davies, North, and Woodrow. The curriculum of ND-20061 (as it is known in the JROTC community) has evolved through the visions of the Air Force, District and its instructors, but remains focused as a pure citizenship program.

Reading Buddies at Lewis & Clark Elementary, a weekly project.

Courses in the JROTC program are five days a week, and do not duplicate lessons in other required FPS curriculum. Air Force JROTC programs focus courses around aerospace science, leadership, communications skills, and management. They also have voluntary activities (model club, color guard, and drill team) and a summer leadership school. As a part of its scope, AFJROTC has community service activities and projects active throughout the school year.

One of the most common misperceptions about JROTC participation is that it is somehow tied to an obligation of military service. (This has never been the case.)  Of a nationwide JROTC enrollment of 200,000 students, only about 8 percent go on to enter military service.

Camp Grafton, October 2011

JROTC programs do draw a base of students who already have an interest in the military or aerospace. However, the program’s goals as an elective directly support our Strategic Plan. They seek to expose students to leadership, life skills, team- and character-building, and training opportunities that they would have to find separately otherwise.

Other perceptions and questions about AFJROTC:

What is the dress code? Regular dress in cadet uniform varies with each unit. Within FPS, that means one day a week in a specified uniform, and one day a month in full uniform. Ironically, cadets spotted out in public in their full uniform are commonly mistaken as active duty military personnel, thanked for their service to country, or  been offered discounted or free meals at restaurants. Cadets in the Fargo program are required to cut their hair, in compliance with appearance standards of the military.

What are the fitness requirements of AFJROTC? Pushups are not a daily requirement; however, students in the program do have one day a week devoted to “PT” (physical training), where they play fitness games such as kickball, flag football, and others.

How many students are enrolled in the Fargo program? This year’s District enrollment is 82 students.

Want to learn more about ND-20061? Know a young person who might enjoy it? The unit is led by Col. Steven Muhs and MSgt. David Miller, and they maintain the unit’s pages in the District website. Not only is the site informative, but also easy to spend time in.

(Click here to see an image of the first AFJROTC class, taken from the 1970 North High Laconian.)

America’s Finest Festival & Parade of Tribute-Honor, Twin Cities, September 2011

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