The Only Students Allowed to Bring Rifles to School


Kamal Sidhu, Co-Editor-In-Chief

AFJROTC, Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. An organization where the students walk the halls just like everyone else, go to class just like everyone else and act like normal teenagers. The only way to spot them is because they will probably be wearing uniforms, talking about planes, presenting the flags guarded by drill rifles at sporting events and disappearing to Keller-Central High School for one or more periods a day.

All students attending Keller ISD high schools can join. Students take a bus to Keller-Central High School for part of the school day. After school practices for teams are also located at Keller-Central. Students wanting to join can contact any JROTC cadet at their respective school or one of the three instructors, Master Sergeant Mickles, Master Sergeant Mayo, and Colonel Christman, through the Keller-Central HS website.

“JROTC is more than just a class,” junior and Mission Support Squadron Commander Cadet/Captain Emily Hobart said. “It’s a family. It’s an outlet for a lot of us. Most of the cadets don’t have the greatest family lives, so when we all come to JROTC, we really connect. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t joined, my high school career would have not been as fulfilling and I wouldn’t have as many opportunities for my future as I do now.”

There is a key staff which includes the Corps Commander and seven other officers who help run the Corps. Currently, the Corps Commander Cadet/Lieutenant Colonel Ross Nelson is a senior at Keller-Central High School. He was placed into his position in October of 2013.

“Being the Corps Commander is definitely a complex feeling,” Nelson said. “In the beginning of my command, it honestly did not feel real. I had not known I would be placed in command until 5 minutes before the change of command ceremony, and it had felt like I was in a space shuttle taking off, there was no room to rest, or to stop. I had hit the ground running in the Corps, with little time to develop plans.”

JROTC offers many teams that cadets can join, such as Armed Regulation, Unarmed Regulation, Armed Exhibition, Unarmed Exhibition, Competition Colorguard, Physical Training Team, Sabre Team, Orienteering Team, Awareness Presentation Team, Kitty Hawk Air Society and Model Rocketry Team.

In Orienteering Team cadets wear a camouflage uniform, which is called an ABU (Air Battle Uniform), get a map and compass, then find their way around the woods. The last meet was at James Ray Boy Scout Reservation, a camping site next to Lake Texoma.

“Most people get lost,” Hobart said. “[The] last event I went to took me two hours to finish, but it’s really fun. I got to spend time with my friends and have an outdoor adventure. It was really funny because only four girls were there and we all got lost and ended up in the same place! We decided to work together to find our way out. Getting to enjoy nature and seeing things that most people don’t get to see, like a beautiful river or amazing trees, was a priceless experience.”

The cadets also do honor guards, which is the presentation of the American and Texas flags with the two rifle guards on the ends of the formation. They can be seen not only at school sporting events, but also places like the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Ranger’s stadium, Texas Motor Speedway and Six Flags.

“It’s not all fun and games,” Hobart said. “When we present and the national anthem is playing, we are paying respect to our country and all the men and women who came before us and gave their service. It’s very emotional for me, personally, and I know a lot of other cadets, because most of us understand what it really means.”

The Corps Commander’s job is to delegate work to the key staff and manage the entire Corps. This position is the most demanding in the cadet group. The instructors select a cadet for this position based on demonstrated leadership ability and academic standing. The appointed cadet must be able to apply common sense and judgment in the solving of problems that affect the entire cadet corps.

“After about a week or so, I was able to finally get into the overall process that the Corps is,” Nelson said. “Juggling AP classes and after school practices were difficult enough, but to add a responsibility over approximately 230 students, and to ensure an organization’s smooth operation was not an easy task. Not just anyone can be a Corps Commander, as it is extremely stressful.”

Hobart feels JROTC is a very rigid and structured program and the most common misconception people have is that it is the military and it is all screaming all the time but in actuality, it is only a military flavored organization.

“At first, I was interested in the Corps under the preconception that being in JROTC meant that, once a Cadet, the Corps marched, hiked, camped, shot rifles, and all other things that my naive eighth grader mind had deluded,” Nelson said. “Of course, this is not what the Corps is about. The Corps has a Basic Cadet Orientation a few weeks before [a Cadet’s first year], and after the first week, all my assumptions about JROTC had departed my mind, and I was immediately hooked. Even before the school year had begun, I had made friends, bonded with upper class men, and was awarded my first rank. Even though my ideas about the Corps were completely wrong, I knew it was for me.”

AFJROTC cadets also volunteered with Snowball Express this year. Snowball Express is an organization which gives families of people who have lost a mother or father in active duty since 9/11 a five-day action packed trip to the DFW area. They all gather at the Dallas Regency Tower and children get a chance to enjoy themselves with other children who are going through the same thing they are. The cadets applaud the families as they arrive and help them get their luggage while making them feel welcome.

“Snowball Express is kind of emotionally draining, because you see all these kids and you know that they don’t have a dad or a mom, because their parent gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Hobart said. “It’s mainly moms and their kids that come, so I saw a lot of little girls wearing shirts with a picture of their dad that said “my dad, my hero” or “your hero, my dad” and things like that. I saw a little boy who couldn’t have been older than 7 carrying a pillow cut out of his dad with a picture of him in his uniform, those are the things that cause a lump in your throat. I think people sometimes forget that while those men and women did do the most honorable and courageous thing, we need to be thankful for the sacrifice that the family has made as well, and Snowball Express really understands and highlights that.”

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