By Steve Sears
Mount Olive High School male and female students in grades 9 through 12 don’t have far to go in seeking to engage in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC). It’s available within the walls of their own school and was started in 2017 under Chief Master Sergeant (Robert) Bedell’s leadership.
“Chief Bedell and I really appreciate how Mount Olive and the surrounding communities have embraced the Air Force Junior ROTC program and support the cadets,” says Brian M. Dickenson, Lieutenant Colonel of the USAF, who is retired and is currently a Senior Aerospace Science instructor at the school. “We are honored for the opportunity to mentor Mount Olive’s young leaders now and in the future.”
The AFJROTC, as its mission, builds stronger, productive citizens, as well as an aerospace science program for high school youth. Dickenson explains further about the ROTC, which itself was founded in 1911 by Army Lieutenant Edgar R. Steevers, the Air Force realm commencing in 1966. “Air Force Junior ROTC works to teach important skills and reinforce personal traits to help make students successful in life, no matter what type of career they choose following high school. These life skills are based on the Air Force core values of ‘integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.’” Students also learn important aspects of leadership, followership, specific details adhering to personal appearance and grooming standards, proper uniform wear, and will also have the opportunity to participate in Leadership Development Activities, including the possibility of earning a scholarship to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s Flight Academy, where they get a chance to earn their private pilot certification. “These activities,” continues Dickenson, “reinforce the lessons they will learn in the classroom and provide them an opportunity to lead and learn among their peers. These activities are our ‘hands on’ teaching tools and are a very fun and exciting way to reinforce the importance of teamwork, service, positive attitude, hard-work, and positive image. Air Force Junior ROTC is a place where a student will not only start to grasp important life lessons, but they will truly feel a sense of accomplishment, belonging, and pride that comes with teamwork and success.”
There are four different levels in the academically accredited program, and students can participate in the program for one year or to four years. The benefits are huge, both personally and professionally. “Cadets who take advantage of additional years of Air Force Junior ROTC earn extra opportunities to practice their leadership skills by leading unit operations,” states Dickenson. “All cadets will study Aerospace Science, Leadership Education, and Health and Wellness during each year of the program. The focus of each area changes from year-to-year and no cadet will repeat curriculum during their time in the Air Force Junior ROTC program. Aerospace Science studies include aviation history; science of flight; global and cultural studies; exploration of space; and management of the cadet corps. Leadership Education focuses on Air Force tradition (uniform wear; military customs and courtesies; flag etiquette; and military marching); foundations of citizenship; communication; awareness and leadership; life skills and career opportunities; and principles of management. The Health and Wellness Program motivates cadets through physical fitness to push their personal limits; lead healthy, active lifestyles beyond program requirements and into their adult lives.”
Cadets who complete three years of the AFJROTC academic program may earn a certificate of training and be eligible to enter the military at a higher pay grade compared to most other enlistees. The AFJROTC program itself is an elective course worth 5 credits, and students must meet the same grading requirements as all other Mount Olive Township School District courses.
Dickenson, who was fortunate enough to attend Midview High School in Grafton, Ohio (which still hosts an AFJROTC unit to this day), also lauds the programs benefits to the township. “Community service by the cadets is a key tenant of good citizenship as it builds character and perspective. Cadets are encouraged to become involved in the community by volunteering with local organizations and finding other ways to give back to their community. Not only do the cadets benefit but the community benefits as well. Some of the organizations our cadets have teamed up with include the All Veterans Alliance, the American Legion, Roxbury Parents with Exceptional Children and Wreaths Across America to name a few. Cadets have also worked throughout the school district and represented Mount Olive as participants in the NYC Veterans Day Parade.”
Interested current or incoming students can visit www.motsd.org for more information.