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AFJROTC: It Ain't Boot Camp

by Quinnton Collison -- Eagle Staff Writer


Imagine this: you are walking through one of the various hallways in campus and you notice a sharply dressed student in a dark blue dress coat, dark blue pants, shiny dress shoes, and military-style cap. That individual is an AFJROTC student. 

Despite what many students think, AFJROTC isn't the military, nor is it boot camp.

AFJROTC, which stands for Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, is a federally sponsored program for high schools and some middle schools across the U.S. It's one of the largest character development programs on the planet according to the AirForce’s JROTC page. The program provides opportunities for any student who is willing to give the program a chance - opportunities to meet new people, do new things, teach your fellow cadets and much, much more.

So who is eligible to take JROTC, and how does it relate to the military? Any student in 9th to 12th grades can take this class. Taking JROTC is not an obligation to join the Armed Forces. In fact, according to MaKayla Wright, Corps Commander, “Most cadets do not pursue a career in the armed forces.” Chief Master Sergeant James Wood, AFJROTC instructor at FCHS, elaborated,  “We do not recruit for the Armed Forces. Less than 4% of the 121,000+ High School JROTC students enlist in the military after graduation; most enroll in college. However, some of our students do elect to join one of the military services. If they do join, they enter the service with an accelerated promotion which means an immediate pay raise.”

FCHS' AFJROTC cadets on the marksmanship team after completing 3 position target shooting. (Courtesy photo)

Whether a student is bound for the military or not, JROTC offers many benefits. "JROTC is a leadership course that teaches several morals and leadership skills that can be beneficial to any student's future,” Wright explained. Chief Wood described some skills that JROTC teaches, including, “the development of your personal potential, the enhanced ability to communicate with others, the knowledge and ability to coordinate varied activities, the focused skills to plan, organize and lead group activities, and the knowledge and skills to motivate and bring a team together." These skills give the student a distinct advantage in college and beyond, Woods says, and success is within reach: "Every student is capable of doing well in this program if they simply cooperate, follow instructions, pay attention in class, read the material, and study a little.”

Are students required to wear a uniform? Chief Wood said “Yes and No. First year cadets have the option of 'opting out.'" Cadets who “opt out” do not have to follow JROTC grooming standards and will not be issued a uniform.  First year cadets also have the option of “opting in” and can be issued both the blue and camouflage uniforms. First year and second year cadets with blue uniforms are also issued the camouflaged “Airman Battle Uniform '' or ABU camo uniform.  In addition to their blues uniforms, third and fourth year cadets are issued the “Operational Camouflage Pattern” or OCP uniform. Uniforms are provided free of charge, Wood explained; however cadets must sign a contract agreeing to take care of the uniform and to pay for it if damaged or lost.

Wood emphasized there's much more to decorum than the uniform. "There are... regulations about the personal appearance of cadets, wearing of the uniform, and even how to address the other military personnel and cadets. For example, males are not permitted to wear an earring(s) in uniform, and females are only allowed one pair of earrings, one earring in each ear.” 

For those worried concerned that AFJROTC might sound like a milder form of boot camp, Chief Wood offered reassurance. "The JROTC course is a leadership and character education program that does not rely on harsh discipline techniques like a boot camp. You will be treated with respect by instructors and other cadets.   We do physical training once per week.  Stretching, cardio and strength.  Cadets then are allowed to play kickball, soccer." The focus is on growth, Woods explained. "All cadets are simply required to do their best and improve over the semester.” “

AFJROTC Cadet Lieutenant Colonel I. Amicucci , Cadet Colonel M.Wright, and Cadet Chief Master Sergeant N. Perdue looking sharp in their Class A uniforms.  (Photo by Quinnton Collison)

All that training and hard work gets developed through outside activities as well, and showcased at competitions. Wright explained that “JROTC has several extra curricular activities within the program including the competitive drill team, competitive marksmanship team, competitive academic bowl team, and the Kitty Hawk Honor Society." JROTC goes on several field trips and participates in several activities including the Virginia Tech High Ropes Course, the Roanoke Rifle and Revolver Club, Lancerlot Ice Skating Complex, and Civil Air Patrol Flights - “Yes, you actually get to fly the plane!" Wood said -   along with trips to Zip-Lines, Arlington National Cemetery, BFMS, Gereau Center, and hiking.

The chances to shine through competition are numerous, and the FC team always does well.“The competitive Marksmanship and Drill teams have participated in a total of four competitions, and they plan to attend two more this month. Each competition has ended in victory considering the ample accomplishments. They have traveled in and out of state for competition and always make FCHS proud," stated Wright. Chief Wood added,“Each team generally completes three competitions per year. Most [competitions] are overnight trips leaving school Friday morning and returning Saturday.  A day out of school and a night in a hotel are fun.    

FCHS' AFJROTC drill team during a competition, being led in Armed Exhibition by their commander MaKayla Wright. (Courtesy photo)

With physical training, character development, enrichment experiences, and competitive opportunities, AFJROTC offers a new complexity to the classroom dynamic that clearly works for its members. For more information please visit the following link

(Franklin County High School AFJROTC unit VA - 20011 - CLUB PAGE-3.pdf), stop by 227 Ramsey and speak to Chief Wood, or email the JROTC inbox at

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