Uniformed JROTC high school students marchingThere are many misconceptions about what JROTC does as a program, none of them more prevailing than the belief that enrolling in JROTC means enlisting in the military.

If you were under the impression you would be required to join the military after high school because of JROTC participation, remember, JROTC is not a military preparation program. The main purpose of JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps)  is to prepare students to become better citizens.

In fact, military boarding schools and academies that dot the map from the east to the west coast offer a college preparatory experience. Therefore, the emphasis is on leadership training and character development. These private schools recognize students are attracted to military schools and academies for a variety of reasons, which may or may not include the military at all.

Furthermore, based on statistics from the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States (AMCSUS), the majority of graduates matriculate to traditional colleges and universities.

After graduating from college, alumni from military schools and academies report the lessons learned in JROTC are extremely valuable in college, career, and life. They often find themselves majoring in fields as diverse as: law, medicine, government, business, technology, engineering, and aviation. Some of these military boarding schools even have highly specialized programs in computer science and aviation.

What Does JROTC Do

If you are wondering what JROTC is about and how the national program is organized, check out these frequently asked questions.

What is the mission of JROTC? As stated by the U.S. Army, the mission is “motivating young people to be better citizens.”

What are the core tenets of JROTC? “Leadership, character and community service are the core tenets of high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, or JROTC.” – U.S. News

Do all of the branches have JROTC? In short, the answer is yes. In 1964, Congress expanded the Army JROTC to include all branches: Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force. In addition, they also modified the program so retired military personnel and reserve officers could serve as instructors, rather than active duty personnel.

Is the program mandated by Congress? Yes, and the objective is to provide students with stellar leadership training, character development, and build partnerships with local communities and a broad spectrum of educational institutions.

Is JROTC a military prep program? No, military preparation is not the objective nor the mission.  “Since the beginning, the purpose of the JROTC program has been to teach cadets leadership, geography, civics, health, global awareness, life skills and U.S. history.” -Accreditedschoolsonline.org

Furthermore, military boarding schools organize and conduct classes and lessons as part of their college prep academic program. Both inside and outside the classroom, cadets take part in a variety of mental, physical, and social activities.

Why do teens want to participate? The majority of students simply want to gain the leadership, character, and the life skills JROTC offers.

Who conducts the classes?  One of the greatest benefits cited by students is the mentorship they receive in LET (Leadership Education Training classes). Often referred to as TACs at military boarding academies, they train, advise, and coach the Corps of Cadets.

What about if I want to apply to a top service academy or ROTC university? JROTC is regulated by the military, so if you are thinking about attending an ROTC university, or applying to one of the five top military service academies (below), it could give you a competitive edge. In fact, many top military academies are honor units with distinction, a real plus in getting into a top service academy.

Can you get a college scholarship? Students thinking about financial aid for college or university might want to consider the aid that comes from higher education’s ROTC programs.

For this reason, it is important to point out that a free education is provided by the top five service academies:

  • U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point
  • U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) at Annapolis
  • U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA)
  • U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
  • U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA)

Even many traditional universities like USC and UCLA offer optional ROTC programs and scholarships. Keep in mind that high school students in JROTC are eligible to apply for ROTC scholarships, but do remember, there is a requirement to serve if you do ROTC. This is quite different from the mission of JROTC, where no such military service requirement exists.

Do you have to serve if you go to an ROTC university or college? At the higher education level at college or university, there is a requirement to serve if you are in ROTC. However, remember this is only at the college or university level. As pointed out earlier, this is a key difference between JROTC vs. ROTC.

At the secondary level (middle and high school) in JROTC, students acquire leadership and management skills that are easily applied to all professions.

For a list of universities that offer Army, Navy, and Air Force ROTC, you can check out this site.

What Does JROTC Do for You

If you want to develop and mature, JROTC is a great way for boys and girls to challenge themselves. It offers mentorship, life lessons, specific tech skills, financial skills, an understanding of your role and responsibility as a citizen, as well as an understanding of United States history, government, and geography.

Teens gain real-world lessons in leadership and understand the chain of command, when to lead and how to follow. Cadets participate in formations, drills, competitions, and annual reviews. Perhaps, most significant, top leaders inspire, manage, help set policies, and provide ongoing governance of the Corps of Cadets.

Here are some personal benefits for teenagers to consider:

  1. Leadership – Almost every profession needs strong leadership and JROTC is a great starting point to learn how to create a vision, spearhead projects, manage, inspire, and mentor others.
  2. Confidence – The backbone of leadership, confidence is critical to decision-making, management, and goal-setting. JROTC helps teens develop confidence by challenging them to face mental, physical and social experiences and situations.
  3. Life Skills – Students today, more than ever, need life skills in time management, how to structure and balance their day, etiquette, communication and conflict resolution skills, health management, and strong communication skill sets. JROTC helps teens learn skills they can actually apply during college, career, and throughout their lives.
  4. Technology– JROTC has a sophisticated technological framework used in classroom lessons. LET (Leadership Education Training) follows modules specifically designed to cover all the core content for the lessons on history, civics, life skills, and much more.
  5. Citizenship – Being a good citizen means following a value system, learning an honor code and living by it. Many military boarding schools/academies follow the honor code: “do not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate, those that do.” As part of character development, they also have a set of core values that encourage honor, integrity, respect, responsibility, and gratitude.
  6. Service orientation – Service is a key component of any JROTC program and cadets learn how to do service projects to support their community. Community service projects vary by location, but range from food and blood drives, performances at hospitals, mentorship programs for youth, and support to the elderly and the troops.
  7. Teamwork – Knowing how to make friends, build camaraderie, resolve conflict with peers, and when to offer a hand, are all key components of leadership training. Cadets attending military boarding schools/academies often see the lessons from JROTC carry over into their academic classes as well as in sports, clubs, and other activities.
  8. Historical understanding – Understanding and appreciating the history of the U.S. helps inform students about ways they can create greater compassion, understanding, cultural awareness, so they are informed global citizens. Cadets at military academies often enjoy special cultural events and programs that complement the lessons learned in LET classes.
  9. Government – Developing an understanding of the U.S. government, how it works, and ways to give back through community service creates a strong citizenry.
  10. Geography – Opening your eyes to the world at large, other countries, cultures, and knowing basic geography creates global awareness and compassion.

In conclusion, we hope we have dispelled some common myths and misunderstandings about JROTC. In particular, remember, there is no requirement to enlist and this is not the objective at the junior level.

No matter what your goals are beyond high school, consider the many academic and personal benefits JROTC has to offer you. Enjoy the leadership, character development, as well as the college and life preparation this outstanding national program has to offer.

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