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ROTC unit scores high marks during inspection

MONTICELLO – The Lawrence County High School’s Junior ReserveOfficer Training Corp (JROTC), the Cougar Battalion, received theHonor Unit with Distinction insignia Thursday after excelling in atri-annual battalion inspection.

Sgt. Douglas Harrington, a senior military science instructorfrom the University of Southern Mississippi, and Lt. Col. DaveReagan (ret.), chief of JROTC Eighth Brigade headquarters at theRed Stone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., arrived at the school atapproximately 8:30 a.m. Thursday to meet and interview thebattalion’s staff and inspect the battalion’s dress and drill. All65 members of the battalion, organized into three companies, wereon hand and in formal uniform for the inspection.

It was the first cadet formal inspection the Cougar Battalionhas gone through since the program began at LCHS in 2005.

“This program is outstanding,” Harrington said after personallyinspecting each cadet in the battalion. “Compared to your regularsoldiers, these cadets are right in line. They’re real sharp, andthey’re going to get better.”

While the inspecting officers found the battalion’s dress anddrill to be squared away, they also judged that the cadets wereproperly exemplifying the program’s motto: LDRSHIP – loyalty, duty,respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personalcourage.

“What I’m seeing here is an application of values,” Reagan saidafter meeting personally with the cadet officers. “These cadets aredemonstrating that they have leadership abilities – I can tell thatthey’re making a difference in their community.”

Reagan, who oversees 192 JROTC programs in Mississippi, Alabamaand Louisiana, pointed out that civic leadership was the wholepurpose of the JROTC.

Despite popular belief, the program is not simply a feeding tubefor the military. While some of the cadets, of course, have careergoals that involve military service, the real point of the programis to shape cadets into good citizens and prepare them for a highereducation.

“We do not encourage the cadets to join the military,” said Sgt.Lee Mathis, Cougar Battalion’s Army instructor. “The program isdesigned to teach cadets to take on leadership roles, in or out ofthe military. Most of them choose to go on to college.”

In the battalion staff meeting, Reagan advised the cadetofficers on different avenues available through the JROTC to pursuecollege careers, such as scholarships for nursing, essay writingand air rifle marksmanship. He repeatedly advised the cadets totake and retake the ACT.

Reagan also made the point that JROTC not only strengthenscommunities, but the cadets themselves. The life disciplineinstilled by JROTC was testified about from Cougar Battalion’scommanding cadet officer.

“The JROTC has kept me disciplined – kept me from making a badpath for my future,” said Cougar Battalion Cadet Lt. Col. BradPreston, a LCHS senior.

Preston also pointed out that JROTC is strong source of academicdiscipline as well.

“JROTC teaches you a lot more outside of what the school doesn’tteach,” he said. “Like government – I never was interested inpolitics or government before I joined the JROTC, but the programgot me really interested. We have to learn the chain of command,and we’ve learned a lot about how government functions.”

Col. Dick Reeves, Cougar Battalion’s Senior Army instructor,expounded on the program’s classroom ability.

“Just look at our curriculum, it’s unreal,” he said. “They’relearning more about government in here than in the classroom. Thesekids don’t get much military – just one semester, that’s it. Fromthen on, it’s leadership, government, health, financialresponsibility…”

The program, academically advanced though it may be, only countson a student’s schedule as an elective credit – an issue that drawsthe ire of Reeves and his peers. Reagan, who meets often witheducation officials in his three-state area of responsibility,promised to work toward changing the program’s credit status withthe Mississippi Department of Education.

“When I approach the state board of education, I will ask fortheir support,” Reagan said. “I will show them that JROTC is notjust physical education. These kids are smart – they know theConstitution, they know the government.”

In the meantime, Reagan advised Cougar Battalion to work towardincreasing its size by visiting “feeder schools,” the county’smiddle schools.

“These cadets need to go down to those schools in small groupswith their officers and give presentations on the program,” Reagansaid. “They can show the younger kids how the JROTC works and thethings that are taught here.”