GREAT LAKES, Ill. - Many of the more than 600 units across the country and in Guam, Japan, Spain and Italy are back to school in one form or another. Some are in socially distanced classrooms or attending virtual remote classes on computers using video teleconference applications.
“There are 1,250 NJROTC (Navy Junior Officers' Training Corps) instructors across the globe who are working tirelessly to deliver our Citizenship Development program to students,” said Tim Daseler, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) deputy commander for NJROTC/NNDCC operations.
“In these extraordinary times, these seasoned leaders are working tirelessly to deliver the program to students in new and innovative ways, and are also assisting and providing bold leadership to principals, counselors, and other teachers with the myriad of issues each school faces.”
The NJROTC and NNDCC are part of the Navy’s Citizenship program. They are overseen and supported by NSTC, headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. The program seeks to instill in participating high school students the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. NJROTC and NNDCC strive to build a strong foundation of citizenship within America’s future leaders.
The NJROTC/NNDCC program is divided into 11 areas. Each area averages between more than 40 to more than 60 high school units. Each unit consists of students, known as cadets, ranging from freshmen to seniors. They are taught Naval Science curriculum by a retired U. S. Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard officer and retired enlisted service members.
“I am very proud of our cadets’ commitment and perseverance with adapting to and operating in this new learning environment. They have remained strong and demonstrated positive attitudes. We're taking great pride working together as a team,” said retired U. S. Navy Cmdr. Rick Hamblet, the Senior Naval Science Instructor (SNSI) at Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park, Texas.
“Not competing in live drill competitions has been hard for the cadets to accept, but we are placing our focus on the things we can do, not the things we can’t do.” said retired U. S. Navy Cmdr. Tim Craddock, SNSI at Washington (Ind.) High School.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Carl Lewandowski said Papillion (Neb.) La Vista (High School) is “business as usual” for most of their daily NJROTC activities and events.
“Uniforms have been issued. We conduct weekly (socially distant) personnel inspections and hold student-led drill classes (wearing masks) weekly. Our color guards have presented the nation’s colors at our home football games. Athletic events have been modified to maximize student safe distances by substituting planks for sit-ups and other creative activities. Many of these accomplishments are possible by following the 3W policy: wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands. Finally, we are able to compete against other schools by participating in postal (air rifle) competitions. Postals were “remote” before remote was trending!” he said.
The Navy Junior ROTC program was established by Public Law in 1964, in Title 10, U.S. Code, Chapter 102. The program is conducted at accredited secondary schools throughout the nation, and taught by instructors who are retired Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard officers and enlisted personnel. The NJROTC accredited curriculum emphasizes citizenship and leadership development, as well as America’s maritime heritage, the significance of sea power, and naval topics such as the fundamentals of naval operations, seamanship, navigation and meteorology.
In a non-Covid year, classroom instruction is augmented throughout the year by extra-curricular activities of community service, academic, athletic, drill, and orienteering competitions, field meets, flights, visits to naval or other activities, marksmanship sports training, and physical fitness training. Electronic classroom equipment, textbooks, uniforms, educational training aids, travel allowance, and a cost-share of instructors’ salaries are provided by the Navy.
In this “new normal” instructors and cadets have to adapt and overcome several challenges.
Retired U. S. Navy Cmdr. Steve Schulte, SNSI for the Zion-Benton Township (Ill.) unit says it has been difficult teaching and motivating freshmen new to the program through remote learning.
“We are encouraging freshman to come to school for ‘office hours’ which is allowed by the school. We have been successful in getting about 75 percent of freshmen in to issue uniforms,” he said.
But Schulte has also been seeing a few benefits.
“It has been a learning experience for our cadet staff in handling adversity. We have challenged them to come up with a way to keep our unit functioning as normal as possible in an abnormal situation. They are working on preparing for pass-in-reviews without full unit participation in practice, developing a remote advancement program for junior cadets among other things,” Schulte said.
Recently the NJROTC unit at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Va., was able to work outside on Oct. 7 as the unit cleaned up an area of the city.
“We did an Adopt-A-Spot where we cleaned up streets,” said Cadet Julianne Khuu, a senior and the unit’s commanding officer, in a video on the school’s News Break YouTube channel. “My favorite part was getting out and getting the opportunity to be engaged with the community and allowing myself to be with my cadets cleaning. It was a good experience to come out and get together and still maintain social distance but still helping out the community.”
Retired U. S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Wilson, SNSI of the unit said the Navy and NJROTC has three core values – honor, courage and commitment.
“These kids were committed to one another and learn to work together as a team and get out cleaning up the neighborhood,” he said.
For more information on Navy Junior ROTC log on to https://www.netc.navy.mil/Commands/Naval-Service-Training-Command/NJROTC/ and https://www.netc.navy.mil/Commands/Naval-Service-Training-Command/NJROTC/NNDCC-Program/.
The NSTC commander, Rear Adm. Jamie Sands, and his staff oversee 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy. This includes Naval ROTC at more than 160 colleges and universities, Officer Training Command (OTC) on Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, Recruit Training Command (RTC) at Naval Station Great Lakes, and NJROTC/NNDCC.
For more information about NSTC, visit https://www.netc.navy.mil/Commands/Naval-Service-Training-Command/.
MCC Byron C. Linder, Naval Service Training Command
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