Andalusia High school drops JROTC program

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 9, 2002

After 34 years, Andalusia High School is discontinuing the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program headed by Senior Army Instructor, Maj. Robert Cole.

"The students have been disappointed without a doubt. JROTC gave students who didn't play sports or weren't involved in other extracurricular activities something to be involved in," said Cole.

"Andalusia High School is losing a great and valuable asset. Maj. Cole has been a vital instructor and mentor to many of the students at Andalusia High," TSgt. Steven Pleasants, Air Force Recruiter said. "He not only teaches these kids but gives them career guidance and valuable life lessons. I have worked with him for three years and I have slowly watched the JROTC program shrink to a very small unfounded group. I believe JROTC is a great program for the students. It teaches them discipline, and gives them a since of pride. They learn about their country and the men and women who have fought and died for it."

When the program was enacted for the 1968-1969 school year the JROTC program had an enrollment of 92 out of 322 which was 29 percent. The percentage of enrollment in JROTC has never been that high since.

Even after girls were allowed in the program in the 1973-1974 school year the percentage of

enrollment was still 25 percent.

Cole said the number of recruits from this area shouldn't be affected dramatically by the cut of this program.

"Really, there is only a small percentage of people in JROTC that has gone on to the military," Cole said. "The students that go into the military now will have to go in as an E-1 instead of getting an accelerated promotion to E-3 which is a $200 per month pay raise."

Pete Kelley said the JROTC program has been on military probation because of low enrollment for a while. To stay in operation, the program is supposed to have 10 percent enrollment or 100 students. This year's enrollment is down to 26 people with some repeat students for next semester.

"It is disappointing that more students didn't volunteer to go in the program especially with what the nation is going through with terrorism," Cole said.

"As a veteran in armed service, I don't think cutting the program will hurt recruitment numbers from this area," Kelley said.

Sgt. Maj. Claude Keenam, army instructor from 1968-1981 said that while he supports the program, he understands with the low enrollment why the school board needed to cut the program.

"Being retired military I would like the school to keep the program," Keenam said. "I believe in the program and I don't understand why the program is not pushed more and why the young people don't get involved in it."

The JROTC program teaches leadership, military rank, military time, phonetic alphabet, land navigation, military history, first aid and other useful courses that could be of use to anyone.