The appeal of JROTC

Why do some Davenport West students take JROTC, and others don’t?


Published with permission from Isabelle Freund

Army JROTC poses for a picture shortly after their Raider Team Tryouts. Their upcoming Raider Competition is the Black Cat Raider Challenge in Fredericktown, Missouri, in early April.

Thomas Yates, Reporter

“Present colors!” The cadet wielding the saber issues the command for you and your fellow Color Guard members to move into the next position. Carrying a decommissioned rifle, you change your hold on the rifle, sweat forming under the brim of your cover as you feel the eyes of the hundreds of onlookers from the stands. The lights of the football stadium shine down upon you and your friends, presenting you for everyone to watch. The other rifle bearer shifts into the same position as you when you do, and the cadet carrying the Iowa flag hoists it from the sheathe, turning it horizontally. Taps and the National Anthem play, and your chest fills with patriotism and pride as everyone applauds you. Being just a high schooler, you’ve managed to publicly respect your country.

Across the United States, over 3,000 high schools host Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs representing the various branches of the United States Armed Forces. Nearby, schools that don’t host a JROTC class offer busing to schools that do, so students can still enroll in it. There are over 38,000 cadets (students) enrolled in JROTC across the United States, and 40 of these students are at Davenport West.  

“A friend said that JROTC was a great class, and could help me with my future, so it piqued my interest,” senior Jarrod Hulme said, a Cadet Captain in the Army JROTC program.

Davenport West is one of the schools that does not have its own program, but transports students to nearby schools for them to take it. West offers Marine Corps JROTC (MCJROTC) at Davenport North and Army JROTC (AJROTC) at Davenport Central.

“It kind of came to my attention as a class, so I tend to do what my friends do, within reason,” said Hulme.

As for all students interested in JROTC at West, Hulme was faced with the decision between AJROTC and MCJROTC. For some students, family and friends can be an influence on the decision making process.

“My dad was in the Army, I just know more people who were in the Army, and one of my friends who was in the program recommended it to me. I found it interesting,” Hulme said.

While interest is a heavy factor in deciding whether or not to take JROTC, another equally important factor would be knowing what the program is all about.

“It’s about teaching you how to become a leader. It teaches you the structure of leadership, such as in the workforce or in the military. Particularly, it motivates young people to become better citizens,” Hulme said, stating that JROTC is not about recruiting teenagers for the military.

Sophomore Austin Kokemuller was unaware that Davenport West is one of the few high schools across the nation that offers students the freedom of choice between attending one of two or more JROTC programs (Army and Marine Corps JROTC). He also, in his two years of high school thus far, has not taken JROTC.

“[ I am] just not interested,” Kokemuller said. “[It] doesn’t sound delightful or fun, and it sounds like a lot of work.”

Kokemuller’s interests simply are elsewhere. However, junior Wyatt Swearinger took MCJROTC and wasn’t too pleased with the results.

It’s all about pushing yourself, and being the best you that you can be.”

— Isabelle Freund

Swearinger was aware that the school was rare in having the choice between multiple JROTC programs. When asked to explain why he stopped taking MCJROTC, attribution said.

“I had a problem with authority,” he said. “I didn’t like the structure, I would’ve tried it again but I’ve needed more credits in school for other things.”

Swearinger is interested in pursuing MCJROTC further, if it were possible for him to do so, but his class schedule interferes with this.

Going through his last year at Davenport West, senior RJ Joiner realized too late the potential of taking JROTC.

“I simply never thought about it,” Joiner said.“In freshman year, I probably wouldn’t have, even if I would’ve sat down with someone, not going to lie, but this year I probably would have because I’m kind of looking to do National Guard or something like that after high school.”

To some freshmen, the idea of taking a class that has a military theme is generally unappealing. This was not the case for Drake Ziegler, who is currently a junior at Davenport West.

“Freshman year I asked my counselor which one was harder, and I took Marine Corps JROTC because she said it was. And it is, it’s about discipline and fitness. Not too hard on knowledge,” Ziegler said.

He has been enrolled in Davenport North’s MCJROTC program since his freshman year, and holds the rank Cadet Company Sergeant Major. With his three years of experience, Ziegler has seen almost every aspect of the program.

“Your first couple years are about learning everything, but eventually you have to pass on the knowledge and develop your leadership skills,” Ziegler said.

This observation was also noted by freshman Justice Anders, a Cadet Lance Corporal in the MCJROTC program.

“I’d describe it as a physical program, more than a knowledge program, a program you can’t fail,” Anders said.

Influences come from many places, but for this freshman, his influences come from a more familial source.

“I was going to take Army JROTC, but my cousin was in MCJROTC, and almost everyone in my family was in the Marine Corps,”Anders said.

For sophomore Isabelle Freund, the circumstances were similar to Anders’.

“My brother is in the Army, and he did Army JROTC when he was in school,” Cadet Captain Freund said.

High schoolers can have a spectrum of interests: sports, music, theatre, and this is no exception for Freund.

“There’s a lot of extracurriculars,” Freund said. “If you’re into more than one thing, whether it be academics or physical, or anything really, you can do it with JROTC and it will help strengthen your future.”

Freund has juggled track, orchestra, and JROTC for over a year now, and has succeeded in all fields.

“It’s all about pushing yourself, and being the best you that you can be,” Freund said.