Coast Guard will be establishing two new Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) units for the 2022-2023 school year, bringing the national total to six. These will be located at Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown, Del., and Topsail High School in Hampstead, N.C. The goal of this expansion is to invest in young people and encourage them to become better citizens, while also gaining exposure to the possibility of serving their country nobly in the Coast Guard or other military branches.
The JROTC program is a citizenship development program designed to build character. Schools throughout the country have had Army, Navy, and Air Force programs dating back 100 years, but it was only 30 years ago that the Coast Guard piloted its first program as a result of congressional legislation.
There are currently about 325 cadets in the Coast Guard JROTC program across four schools. As of the beginning of 2022, more than 750 cadets have graduated from the Coast Guard JROTC program from the two legacy units located at the Maritime Science Technology (MAST) Academy in Miami, Fla., and Camden County High School in N.C. Thousands of students have participated in the Coast Guard JROTC program for some part of their high school career.
JROTC consists of a three-to-four-year curriculum rich with experiences in and outside of the classroom. Cadets wear a Coast Guard uniform one day a week and they learn first aid, government, citizenship, ethics, Coast Guard history, seamanship and navigation, among other things. They also can participate in extra-curricular aspects of the program such as drill team, color guard, air rifle team, Raiders (athletic team), and summer leadership camps. Each unit has two maritime science instructors—a retired Coast Guard officer and a retired enlisted member. Cadets must follow grooming standards as set forth in the Cadet Field Manual and they advance through a cadet enlisted/officer ranking system as they demonstrate increased responsibility and leadership.
“Coast Guard JROTC offers a great opportunity to positively impact a young person’s life and instill in them the values of citizenship, service to the nation, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment,” said Rear Adm. Megan Dean, director of Governmental and Public Affairs. “JROTC is mutually beneficial for the service, school, and community, and it takes all three working together to make it thrive. An additional benefit of this unique program is an introduction to the military with the possibility that several in our JROTC ranks will pursue a future in the Coast Guard or one of the other [six] branches of the U.S. military.”
Dean presided over the establishment ceremonies for the two newest JROTC units at the Lucy Beckham High School in S.C., and Pinellas Park High School in Fla., and presented each cadet commanding officer with the Coast Guard flag as they formally took charge of their respective units. She is expected to preside over the next two establishment ceremonies.
To participate in JROTC, students must be in grades 9-12, with some exceptions for eighth graders. They must be citizens, nationals of the United States or those lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence; be physically fit; maintain acceptable standards of scholastic achievement and an academic standing that warrants at least normal progression leading to graduation; and maintain acceptable standards of conduct and grooming.
“I think everything about JROTC is in alignment with our service ethos and humanitarian values,” said Cmdr. Clay R. Cromer, JROTC program manager. “We’re already in the life-saving business, and it’s only a short walk to the life-shaping business of JROTC. For a reasonable cost …. we’re furthering our brand... intersecting young lives, and reaching into schools and communities in ways that we never have before.”
As of the fall of 2021, a new Career Technical Education (CTE) pathway credential called “Leadership and Employability Skills” will be available to JROTC students. This new CTE pathway provides cadets with a nationally-recognized CTE job skills ready credential commensurate with other CTE programs. Cromer said the credential “validates” the curriculum being taught by all service JROTC programs. Topics include ethics, integrity, decision-making, interpersonal skills, citizenship, and team collaboration. The Coast Guard is on track to offer this opportunity as it finishes the curriculum roll out over the next couple of years.
As far as goals for expansion, Cromer said, “we don’t have a target number yet, but it’s exciting to see that we grew by 100% this current school year and will be growing by another 50% next school year. This incremental, yet rapid expansion keeps me as the program manager laser-focused on addressing the needs of today while also laying the groundwork for future growth.”
If you are interested in learning more about the JROTC program or would like to be an instructor, you can visit https://www.uscg.mil/community/JROTC or email Cmdr. Cromer.