High school organizing Army JROTC program

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 4, 2005

Some students at Lawrence County High School next year will beexpected to march in step and report on command.

Those students, from freshmen to seniors, will be the first toparticipate in the school’s new Army Junior Reserve OfficerTraining Corps program.

“I’m looking forward to having the Army here,” said PrincipalDaryl Scoggin. “I think our kids can benefit from the structurethey provide.”

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Scoggin, in his first year at the school, said the decision tohost an Army JROTC program was made before he was hired, but he wasexcited about coordinating its inclusion in the school’scurriculum.

The program is not entirely new to Scoggin. He has experiencewith JROTC programs at other schools – a Navy program at Pearl HighSchool, an Air Force program at Crystal Springs and an Army programat Provine High School.

He ushered in the Navy and Air Force programs as well, hesaid.

“I would imagine part of (the reason the Army was chosen here)was because we have the Army National Guard armory here. It wouldbe a logical choice,” he said.

The armory and the relative closeness of Mobilization TrainingCenter Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg provide “great” opportunitiesfor the cadets for educational field trips, Scoggin said.

However, Scoggin and Lawrence County School DistrictSuperintendent Russell Caudill both stressed that the JROTC programis not a recruiting tool for the Army. Instructors are punished forusing the program to recruit and for discrediting the otherbranches of the Armed Forces.

“That’s not what it’s about,” Scoggin said. “ROTC programs areabout developing leadership capabilities.”

It is true, he said, that many cadets eventually find their wayinto the Armed Forces, but that’s because they find they like thestructure and discipline of military life.

“The students interested where I was before were looking forsomething – something with a structure to it,” Scoggin said. “Somekids are trying to determine what to do with their life andconsidering the military often use this as a chance to experienceit and determine if that is what they really want to do.”

And interest at LCHS for the program appears high, he said.

“We’ve just put out feelers, but we seem to have a lot ofinterest. We’re still trying to determine what grade to start it,”he said.

The program is designed as a four-year program, but it takestime for the program to develop and they don’t want to denysophomores, juniors and seniors the opportunity to participate inthe program, Scoggin said.

School officials are working with the JROTC command to determinethe logistics of the program and how to work it into the school’sblock schedule.

The JROTC program is funded primarily through the armed forces,who also provide the uniforms worn by cadets. The district doescontribute some funding to the program.

“A very large chunk of their money comes from the armed forces,”Scoggin said.

The program will be overseen by an officer-in-charge andnoncommissioned-officer-in-charge. The instructors are allowed tooperate with a certain degree of automony.

The JROTC program is expected to begin with the 2005-2006 schoolyear, and school officials are presently narrowing their choicesfor instructors. Instructors must be retired from the Army and meetother qualifications.

“We’ve had some applications, and we’ll make a selection as soonas we can,” Scoggin said, adding that they were coordinating theirefforts with JROTC command.

“We’ve got a good many to choose from” including several fromapplicants native to or already living in Lawrence County, hesaid.

School officials expect to hire instructors soon and have themin place to organize the program by early summer.