Ten-hut: JROTC program starts at MHS this Sept.

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Master Sgt. Robbie Ellis and Maj. Bob Garcia are heading up the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program, a new offering at McNary High School beginning in September. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School students will have a new elective to choose when the doors open this year: an Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

However, its two instructors, Master Sgt. Robbie Ellis and Maj. Bob Garcia, want the community to know it is not a recruitment program.

“Our main goal is producing students of character with a sense of community and community involvement,” Ellis said. “Our goal is making better citizens.”

The JROTC program will focus on various aspects of aerospace history and science with a healthy dose of military history, but students who enroll will not be expected to make a career of the military. An informational session is being held at the high school Thursday, Aug. 9 at 5 p.m. for those with an interest in finding out more.

The program is first for McNary, but North Salem High School hosts an Army ROTC program for the Salem-Keizer School District.

Students can enroll in the program at any time during their four years at McNary and will go from being known as students to cadets, complete with uniforms and drills.

“The program is 40 percent science, 40 percent military studies and 20 percent physical fitness,” Garcia said. Cadets must maintain good standing in terms of grades, attendance and behavior to remain enrolled in the program. “They’ll also be assigned ranks based on Air Force models.”

First-year cadets will take part in introductory curriculum surveying the history of flight up through current uses including space exploration. With each successive year of participation, the lessons will take it another level deeper. A major component at each level will be service projects.

“The Air Fore has three core principles: Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we we do. Those core values are good for all of life,” Garcia said. “We want cadets to learn the skills necessary to be leaders in the workplace wherever they end up.”

“They learn how to carry themselves, how to dress and how to succeed when it comes to community involvement,” Ellis added. “They know how to talk to people. They know how to dress. It’s easier for them to get and stay motivated.”

To that end, the cadets will be tasked with developing clubs within the JROTC program that are tailored to their interests.

“We’re also hoping to get members of the community with experience in the aerospace industries to come and help advise club activities,” Garcia said. “Learning is not fun unless you get to do hands-on. We might talk to them about the principles of flight, but there’s nothing like going out to the field and launching a rocket to help you understand what the textbooks are talking about.”

While fewer than 4 percent of JROTC cadets enter the military after high school, there are also benefits for those who already see it as a potential path.

“It can give you more opportunities to earn JROTC scholarships and, if they decide to enlist, they can enter at a higher pay grade,” Garcia said.

The JROTC program is McNary is being funded in partnership by the school district and U.S. Air Force.

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