While our students have access to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs at all three of our comprehensive high schools, that is certainly not the norm across the country.
“We are a very unique district in that we have these programs,” said CTE Director Ron Mayberry. “There are over 400 school districts on the waiting list to get JROTC programs.”
Unlike the college-level ROTC program, JROTC is not a recruiting program. The primary goal is to build leadership skills and responsibility in cadets — although cadets can use their experience to enter the military at a higher rank.
JROTC also offers students a sense of community. “All of us have over 100 cadets that maybe wouldn’t be as engaged in school or engaged in something that represents something greater than themselves,” said Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Derek Reeve (GKHS).
Air Force: Bethel High School
Army: Graham-Kapowsin High School
Navy: Spanaway Lake High School
Reeve said the district’s three JROTC programs are all similar, with a “different flavor” based on the branch of service.
The JROTC programs all teach citizenship while preparing students for graduation. Cadets earn credits in PE, Fine Arts, World Studies, and more.
They also learn life skills, including time and money management.
Under the guidance and direction of their instructors, cadets plan and lead major school events, drill meets, and award banquets. They also serve as Color Guard at school and district events. They’ve even been on the field at Mariners games!
Cadets also get to participate in some unique opportunities including inter-state drill meets, leadership camps and C-17 flights.
“We’re one of the few high schools in the entire country that has an actual C-17 flight,” said Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) John Apostolides (BHS). Cadets not only get spectacular views of Mount Rainier, but they get to visit the cockpit and talk with service members, which gives them a great inside look at military life.
“We have activities going on consistently every month,” said Apostolides. Unfortunately, the pandemic has slowed activities down, but all three programs are making the best of the current situation.
On a normal year they participate in numerous community activities for Memorial Day, National Day of Service (Sept. 11), and Veterans Day. The Spanaway Lake Cadets also support Honor Flights, the program that brings veterans from all over the country to Washington D.C. to tour our nation’s capital and visit the memorials dedicated to honoring those who have served and sacrificed for our country.
Cadets also spent time earlier this year volunteering at the Tacoma Rescue Mission. The cadets served 230 dinners to people in need. Third year Cadet Breanna Wilde commented that this was her, “best community service event ever.”
JROTC is a partnership between Bethel School District and the United States Department of Defense. It is funded by the Title X federally-funded program and was originally established by the passage of the National Defense Act of 1916.