Huntington North JROTC program finds plenty of success

Competing in an activity during their Saturday, Sept. 12, competition are cadets in the Huntington North High School junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. The HNHS JROTC program currently has 90 cadets who are involved both in-person and virtually.
Competing in an activity during their Saturday, Sept. 12, competition are cadets in the Huntington North High School junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. The HNHS JROTC program currently has 90 cadets who are involved both in-person and virtually.

In September of 2019, discussion of adding a junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) to the curriculum at Huntington North High School was taking place at a Huntington County School Corporation Board of Trustees meeting.

Now, just one year later, the JROTC program at HNHS has taken off, seeing 90 students involved through in-person and virtual attendance.

Contrary to popular belief, the JROTC program does not involve a military requirement like the ROTC program, or college level, does. At the high school level, much of the focus for students involves their community. According to Chief Warrant Officer (CW2, Retired) Bobby Blair, it also helps shape cadets with important life skills and to prepare them for different college, workforce or military routes they can take in life.

Blair, along with Sergent First Class (SFC, Retired) Dana Lescoe, both instruct HNHS JROTC students in and after school on a daily basis.

Blair is a Huntington native, who attended HNHS for his freshman year of high school. He served for 24 years in the U.S. Army, and this is his first year teaching JROTC.

Lescoe, a Florida native, served for 22 years in the military and applied immediately for the position after hearing about the new program coming to HNHS. This is his fourth year teaching JROTC. JROTC programs are required to have two instructors that have a military background to ensure that the experience needed to properly inform and instruct cadets is present.

HNHS offers a full six periods of JROTC classes, giving more flexibility for students’ scheduling. According to Blair, students are currently allowed to transfer weekly into the JROTC class as a replacement for their physical education requirement. Students may also transfer in for a second semester class. Students looking to transfer in may approach their guidance counselors and request that they attend the JROTC class in replacement of their physical education period.

“We accept students from all walks of life,” Blair said.” We want this program to flourish.” During school hours, the JROTC program has different activities scheduled for certain days of the week. On Mondays, the program’s focus is on marching. Students are taught about different marching formations and will be graded by cadet command. According to Blair, many careers outside of the military use formations that cadets will learn in JROTC, such as a career with fire or police departments.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are spent learning a nationally accredited course curriculum in various topics. Though the program is currently based as a physical education class, the program will also include other course options such as a U.S. History and Civics credit. Students will also be able to learn how to balance a checkbook and receive education about first aid.

Being the first year of the program, the large majority of cadets are considered a Learning, Education and Training 1 (LET 1) at HNHS, though there is a transfer student from Europe at HNHS that is a LET 4.

LET 1 cadets learn about topics such as military ranks and community service options. This year, students have already been tasked with going out into the community to find, locate and contact places within the community that the JROTC program could give back to.

Wednesdays and Fridays are reserved for physical training. Cadets are put through a vigorous amount of calisthenics within a short amount of time, which prepares them for future competitions.

After school everyday, cadets are involved in Raider Challenge Practices. Compared to Tough Mudder and Spartan competitions, the Raider Challenge activities include physically and mentally challenging activities such as obstacle courses, tire flipping, two-mile runs and pushing humvees. Students have the opportunity to receive varsity letters and scholarships by competing in these challenges. The HNHS JROTC group currently focuses on four different competition types, which are Raider Challenges, the JROTC Leaderships and Academic Bowl, Drill and Ceremony and Air Rifle competitions.

On Sept. 12, the HNHS JROTC cadets competed in their first competition as a group. They placed in every event and placed first overall. The competition was broken into eight stations, which were all completed within the time span of approximately five hours. According to Blair, the competition does not include much time in-between activities. Other competitions include Olympic-style shooting competitions with an air-pellet style gun, which is more of an individual sport.

For cadets that lean more toward academics, there are opportunities for competition with the JLAB. JLAB prepares cadets for SAT, ACT and ASVAB tests.

According to Blair, much of the credit for the start of the JROTC program goes to Dr. Russ Degitz. While he was still the principal at HNHS, Degitz presented the idea to the HCCSC school board and also looked into other JROTC programs around the area for more information. Degitz now works at Huntington University as the chief operating office.

Photos and more information about the JROTC program at HNHS may be found on Facebook at Huntington North JROTC, or online on their website at huntingtonnorthjrotc.com.