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The JROTC Instructor

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The Good, the Bad…

First, lets get something out of the way. Not all JROTC instructors are great people. Not all bank tellers are great people. Pick a job and you will have someone in a position that makes you wonder why they chose to take it. On the flip side of that, there are incredible JROTC instructors in each branch (including mine, Lt Col Bernard C. Lorenz and CMSgt Earl C. Broomhead), including some of the National Guard-run programs like Junior Guard in Kentucky.

JROTC instructors are all retired (20 or more years) or medically retired from their branch of service in the US military and have chosen to help mold some of America’s youth into being better citizens- the stated goal of the JROTC program.

Next, let’s also get this out of the way. JROTC instructors need better training in drill and ceremonies in general (more on that later), but color guard standards in particular. JROTC units have color guards all over newspapers, TV, and the internet. It’s time we had some highly trained officers and NCOs to ensure service standards are followed.

In this vein, I don’t understand how NJROTC can write the Cadet Field Manual and almost completely ignore MCO 5060.2 and MCO 10520.3. But, that’s another article. Moving on.

and the Ugly

Now, there are BAD instructors. Just go to a search engine and type in “JROTC instructor arrested” and you will see a long list of men sent to prison over the years, mostly for having an inappropriate relationship with a cadet.

Another type of bad JROTC instructor is the one who is abusive. The one who is unable to leave his time as a Drill Sergeant, Drill Instructor, or Training Instructor behind. JROTC is not indoctrinating civilians into becoming Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, or Coast Guardsmen, it’s making more responsible citizens.

Lastly, in our list of Bad Instructors, we come to the individual who is filling his or her position to supplement their income. At retirement, we get 50% of our Active Duty pay, or some percentage higher. When an instructor takes a position, that brings their pay back up to a similar level when they were in the service. School districts can pay two JROTC instructors and it only amounts to one teacher’s salary since both instructors get paid half. It’s a great deal all around.

The lazy instructor will rely heavily on cadets to run things. But, cadets are supposed to run things. Yes, that’s true. However, the instructors are supposed to be involved in supervision and guidance. Drill team and color guard is not supposed to happen outside while the instructor sits in their office. And that brings us to lack of knowledge and being embarrassed to admit it.

Education is Key!

My Instagram account has what I call, Micro Training Moments. The posts I make there (and cross-post to the DrillMaster Facebook page) are most often educational critiques of drill teams and soloists, but roughly 95% of my posts are regarding color guards and the flag. By presenting critique after critique, cadets around the world have been able to more fully understand the letter and meaning of TC 3-21.5, Drill and Ceremonies; AR 840-10 [Flag Manual]; MCO 5060.2, Drill and Ceremonies; MCO 10520.3 Flag Manual; AFMAN, 36-2203, Drill and Ceremonies; AFI, 34-1201, Protocol; and AFPAM 34-1202, Guide to Protocol. One big issue I deal with on a regular basis is informed cadets and uninformed instructors.

After being glued to social media for a time and reading post after post that my social media accounts provide, cadets can become more knowledgeable about drill and ceremonies and related subjects and possibly surpass their instructor(s). With that in mind you must remember that military officers may have marched in college, but, depending on their job, have almost zero to do with drill and ceremonies while in the service and, even though its an NCO thing, most enlisted instructors have not marched since their last professional development course which probably was five or even 10 years before they retired. That’s not meant as an excuse, it’s to help everyone involved understand the situation.

JROTC Instructors: You need to be as informed as possible on all of the guidance for your service detailed above. Otherwise, I will continue to receive emails from cadets like this: (Yes, this is edited text of an email and message I received)

Hello, I am curious what to do about instructors who do not know the regulations. I am in a JROTC unit in [a state] and recently a ceremony. Our job was to hold American flags for VIPs. Our cadet corps commander told us we were to dip the flag. I refused based on the standards in the Flag Code. The commander talked to our senior instructor who ordered that I dip the flag. I again refused and said I would not disrespect the flag. I was ordered to fall out of formation and talked to by our instructors for not doing what I was told. I then showed them the exact place in the Flag Code and they said “it’s just a one-time thing”. I was absolutely amazed by the ignorance of the people that are supposed to be teaching me and am unsure what to do at this point.

A concerned cadet

I’ve received emails and messages similar to this for years now. Please, JROTC HQs and instructors, let’s work out a plan to educate instructors so that we can avoid disrespect to our nation’s flag, our state, territory, and service flags. Here is another.

I would like some advice regarding one of my instructors, he’s a former Marine DI, and he is in the mindset of a DI. I recognize that some of his methods may be extreme but I believe that he is possibly a danger to the cadets, from what I have observed, he swears constantly but he has also threatened to physically assault me and he is prone to fits of rage.

A concerned cadet

Being an instructor means being a high school teacher with all of those responsibilities, plus: teaching years 1-4 with the different books that go along with them, plus armed drill team, unarmed drill team, rifle (shooting) team, Raiders, color guard, rocketry, cyber warrior, cadet counseling, and probably more. Some schools have three, four, and even five instructors, due to enrollment but those units are few. Most, have one officer and one enlisted instructor and that’s it. Some JROTC units have just one instructor!

There is a certain incorrect perception that everyone who graduated Basic Training/Boot Camp is an expert of everything military, especially drill, because that’s what we do in the service, we march everywhere- not anymore. The JROTC instructor who doesn’t want to look dumb in front of the high school cadets who might know more about drill than he/she does and hides instead of learns, is going to hurt the program.

Side note here: While this article is more about JROTC, we must include Sea Cadets, Young Marines, and Civil Air Patrol. These youth programs bear just as much responsibility to educate cadets and present the colors within service standards.

The New Instructor

Loyalty can be taken to extremes and I am very much aware of the severe backlash that comes from treating an instructor almost as a god. I’m quite serious.

The previous (Chief, 1SG, MSgt, etc.) taught the cadets one way and he retired at the end of last school year. Now you, the usurper, the new instructor, have moved in and destroyed everything we were working for! Or, that’s how it seems to a small group of cadets.

Personality conflicts will arise. Even though it takes time for everyone to adjust, one thing that cadets have to understand is that the instructor is in charge, period. Just because your new instructor is “terrible” because “everything is different” or whatever reason, is no excuse to cause an insurrection or mutiny.

A note to cadets: Even if your new (or current) instructor is not a very nice guy/gal, you need to deal with the situation or at least learn how to do so and be respectful. You are going to come across people who will end up being your best friend and others you will not get along with, no matter what you do. Deal with it, learn, and try to understand. Dealing with others in an adult, professional manner is going to do you and everyone around you good. Trying to get your way through manipulation, arguing, or stomping off while taking other cadets with you, shows that you have much growing up to do.

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