Ask the DrillMaster: How to handle a bad JROTC Instructor

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A Good JROTC Instructor, Image courtesy

Question: Our JROTC instructor doesn’t work with the drill team. He spends all of his time in the classroom, even after school and he won’t look up any information to take us to drill meets. What can we do?

Answer: I have received several questions like this over the years. There are good and bad people in all walks of life and we have to deal with them. These kinds of situations need to be handled as professionally as possible. While you may be upset at your instructor’s inaction, as a cadet, you need to be respectful at all times, not only because of your instructor’s rank, but because he/she is an adult as well. There is no excuse for disrespect as it is improper and will only hurt your efforts for change.

How to create change
Write. Write down your grievances (be respectful and professional) and bring them to your instructor(s). After making them aware, if the instructor(s) don’t respond positively, you have the right to go up your school chain of command; the next level would possibly be a vice or assistant principal or even the school principal. It is also possible to involve parents. Again, everyone involved needs to be very professional.

What happens when things don’t change?
You have two options: 1. Keep at it and deal with the instructor(s), learn from the bad leadership that is displayed as “what not to do”; 2. Leave JROTC. For some, this may seem like the only option.

Something to keep in mind
I have dealt with and worked with JROTC instructors who are less than desirable. Those who are great instructors take the time to work with their cadets in all kinds of extra curricular activities: drill team, color team, rifle team, Raiders, model rocketry, academic club, etc. Others, in general, tend to shirk responsibilities.

Throughout my USAF career I came across experts in all kinds of career fields and other areas of interest that people were very interested in. There is a phrase in the Air Force, and most likely all of the others services, that applies to non-commissioned officers (NCOs) at all levels: “As an NCO __________” and one can fill in the blank with just about anything. I’ll give you an example of how it is used: As an NCO, you are a leader and responsible for the troops you supervise. As an NCO, you must be highly proficient in your job-related duties. As an NCO, you are responsible for knowing drill and ceremonies since it is an NCO’s job.

This last statement, while very true, is not fulfilled by every NCO in the service. Understandably, drill and ceremonies is very low on the list when it comes to the responsibilities of service members because of their job, their wartime skills, etc., etc. This brings up the issue of an NCO retiring from the service, being interviewed and hired at a school, attending their service’s JROTC instructor course and then beginning their new career of high school teacher and its responsibilities. Some schools have 3 and 4 instructors, but most have just 2.

Some men (women not so much) try to cover up that they do not know drill and ceremonies all that well by avoiding the issue (so you don’t find out that they might be a “failure”- they aren’t, though) and still others will embrace a volunteer coach (my interaction with the AFJROTC instructors at Melbourne High School here in Florida) and try to learn everything they can so that they can step up and teach drill. MSgt Greene at Melbourne High always said to his cadets, “There is a big difference between knowing/doing and teaching.” He’s correct, teaching a certain subject takes a certain skill, just like judging a certain subject.

Ego can get in the way
‘We don’t need a coach, we have a former drill instructor here.’ Great! However, being a DI or TI means that you can train recruits for your service which, among many other things, includes drill and ceremonies. When working with recruits, DIs and TIs do not have time to break down proper step technique, balance, posture, or even rifle spinning techniques and a myriad of other very necessary steps that must be taught to drill teams. Being a retired DI/TI is a great asset to a JROTC unit, just like having honor guard experience, but it’s only a foundation. Cadets are not recruits and do not require that type of training.

Make an effort to educate and, again, be respectful. Show your instructors this website, there is tons of info here. Send me a message through my Contact page and I can help you find a coach.

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