At Zachary High School, retired U.S. Army Major Leslie Martin has been the Senior Army JROTC Instructor now for the past two years, and prior to that, he was JROTC instructor at Central LaFourche and Tara High Schools. In all, Major Martin was in the Active Regular U.S. Army for 19 1/2 years and has been involved in the JROTC program for 13 years.
for 17 1/2 years and has been involved in the JROTC program for 19 1/2 years.
Martin is the Senior instructor for second through fourth year students, while Sergeant First Class Andrew Bradford is the instructor for first-year cadets.
JROTC's mission: To motivate young people to be better citizens. "That's our mission, but it’s common to find individuals who believe that high school JROTC programs are designed to prepare students for entry into the U.S. military," said Martin. "To think that we're here to train kids to enter into the military, that's not what we do. JROTC is here for kids who want to belong. A recruiter's job is to recruit kids into the military."
Martin feels that JROTC programs have gotten a bad rap instead of their intended purpose which is to build character, make leaders and to motivate young people into becoming better members of society, like the mission states.
"The JROTC programs are under no pressure or quotas to recruit students for the military. The curriculum does not include, and JROTC Instructors are not allowed, to teach about military tactics or military weapons," Martin said. "However, if a student completes at least three years of JROTC and enters any branch of the U.S. military or the National Guard, they will receive and early promotion to Private First Class."
Participation in JROTC team activities is strictly voluntary for students at Zachary High. Currently, there are 78 cadets involved in the program; grades 9 - 12 can participate.
Each student must choose a career pathway upon entering high school, and JROTC is among the choices.
The JROTC course material is composed of six units of material that include lessons on Leadership Theory and Application; Personal Financial Management; Decision Making & Problem Solving Techniques; Fitness, Nutrition, & First Aid; Military Organization, Traditions and Customs; and Planning, Counseling, Training and Instruction Techniques.
In addition to the course material, there are benefits to taking JROTC courses while in high school. Two years of JROTC substitutes for the required Physical Education and Health credits, and JROTC students are able to participate in the JROTC extracurricular activities.
Those extracurricular activities include belonging to the Color Guard, Armed Drill Team, Unarmed Drill Team, Rifle Team and the JROTC Quiz Bowl teams, which compete in several events and do very well, Martin said.
The Color Guard is where cadets carry the flag, execute routines and are evaluated; Drill team cadets march with rifles and movement, proficiency in marching routines and spinning rifles are evaluated; or kids can compete in Rifle, where they shoot pellet rifles on a competition team.
One Rifle student recently qualified for Regional competition and will compete Feb. 10 in Anniston, Ala. The Drill team is one of four East Baton Rouge Parish area schools that qualified to compete in the Louisiana JROTC Drill Team State Championship competition to be held at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches later this year.
In addition, JROTC cadets can compete in the Leadership and Academic Quiz Bowl team which competes nationally. The team recently competed in a Level I national competition and qualified to advance to a Level II national competition. If they qualify, the Zachary Cadets will proceed to the National Championship JROTC Quiz Bowl Competition to be held in Washington, D.C. this summer.
"Our ZHS JROTC teams are having a very good year," Martin said. "We are very proud of them."
The Drill, Color Guard and Rifle Teams placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in just about every category they entered.
"In the JROTC program, these kids become good leaders," Martin said. "They make new friends and become a family."