JROTC program begins in Northwest Arkansas with 126 cadets

BENTONVILLE – The Bentonville School District launched Northwest Arkansas’ only Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program this year.

The Navy program at Bentonville High School has approximately 126 cadets from Bentonville and West High Schools, said Cmdr. Mike Davis, Bentonville High’s Senior Naval Science Instructor.

Davis retired as a Navy Surface Warfare Officer in 2015 after 28 years of active and Reserve service, he said.

A 2019 student interest survey led the district to recommend the introduction of a JROTC program, said Jennifer Morrow, executive director of secondary education for the district. The board approved the continuation of the program in October 2019.

“The district has been specifically contacted by a Navy advocate to continue this program,” Morrow said of the military branch affiliation.

ROTC is a program offered at hundreds of colleges and universities across the country that prepares young adults for officer careers in the military. The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Space Force, and Coast Guard all offer high school programs. There are 46 junior ROTC programs in Arkansas.

Bentonville is the sixth Navy Junior ROTC program in Arkansas and one of 620 in the world, Davis said. Approximately 500,000 high school students participate in Junior ROTC programs internationally.

Springdale High School started a Junior Marine Corps ROTC program in 2006, but the Marines cut it off several years ago, mostly due to a personnel issue, according to administrators.

The Bentonville program got off to a good start with 102 boys and 24 girls in grades 9 to 12, Davis said.

“It’s a good program, even if you don’t want to go into the military,” said Merriella Vazquez, 17, of Rogers.

Vazquez, a senior executive, is the program command chief, the senior enlisted leader in the program who helps implement policies regarding unit morale, welfare, and training.

Vazquez said she plans to study business administration and participate in an ROTC program at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville after graduating from high school.

The university has 135 students in its Army ROTC program and 60 students in its Air Force ROTC program, said John Thomas, communications manager for the University of Arkansas.

Matthew Freeman, 16, of Centerton, is the chief petty officer of his platoon and the service leader of the junior ROTC unit as a whole, he said.

“My main job is to help my platoon leader, and that’s something I deeply appreciate,” said Freeman.

Freeman, a junior, said he was interested in a career in the military and was considering attending one of the country’s military academies after high school.

“By serving your country, you can be anything from an accountant to a lawyer,” he said, adding that his passion was aeronautical engineering.

Students attend the JROTC class two to three times a week, depending on the bell schedule, and learn about the Navy’s core values ​​of honor, courage and commitment, Davis said.

The program aims to develop the citizenship and leadership potential of students, rather than recruiting future military personnel, he said.

“We’re going to study the science and the art of leadership,” Davis said. “It’s a leadership lab. Maddie Bashara, 16, of Rogers said she “learned a lot about myself and my skills as a leader and how I want to lead people. I always thought I would be a leader. tighter leader, but I was actually much more flexible than I might have initially imagined. Bashara, a junior, said she was not interested in a career in the military and was planning to study journalism or history at university.

The continued development of the JROTC program would allow the district to potentially add a second instructor for the next school year and offer the next level of naval science education, Davis said.

Students can earn five to eight career counseling or physical education credits by enrolling in the program’s four levels and affiliated teams, Morrow said.

The JROTC program has already developed an exercise team and color guard, and will create teams to compete with other JROTC programs, Davis said.

Establishing those four teams would be a solid first year for the program, he said.

The Bentonville School Board approved an initial budget of $ 200,900 for the 2021-2022 school year for the JROTC program, Morrow said. It will be less in the years to come as about half of the budget is start-up costs, she said. Funding covers one staff member, class materials, colored guard, competitive sports team, marksmanship, obstacle course development, uniforms and travel.

The program will not be eligible for Navy funding until it has been successful for about three years, Davis said. The school must demonstrate that the program has been adopted by the community, he said, noting that it must maintain 100 participating cadets who are actively working towards academic success, community service efforts and participation in competitions. and the training of JROTC.

“The most obvious long-term goal is to meet the standards the Navy must have,” said Davis, adding that the look and feel of the program would continue to change as it develops.

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Cadets review the Bentonville ROTC Junior Program


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