2019-01-10 / Front Page

A Day in the Life of a JROTC Cadet

By Lucie-Anne Dionne-Thomas

Cadet Sean Jackson, member of Newport-based JROTC. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Corbett) Cadet Sean Jackson, member of Newport-based JROTC. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Corbett) “Duty, Honor, Country” are three words prominently posted on a whiteboard in a Rogers High School classroom dedicated to the JROTC program. The Newport JROTC, presently a group of 80 cadets, is the second oldest program in the U.S. and is accredited and approved by the U.S. and Rhode Island departments of education. And the enthusiasm of the participants is contagious.

Senior Sean Jackson leads the charge with one group, using an interactive computer program provided by the U.S. Army. The theme of the day is related to substance abuse, and Jackson is serving as the instructor, while Sgt. Maj. Charles Ricker looks on and makes pertinent comments to add to the discussion.

Following the class, Jackson spoke about his path into the program.

“I came to Rhode Island this year since my dad, who has been in the Marine Corps 18 years, is currently attached to a school at the Newport Naval Station,” he said.

As part of a military family, Jackson has also attended high schools in Virginia and North Carolina, where he has been part of JROTC programs affiliated with the Air Force and Navy, respectively.

A resident of Middletown, he begins morning classes in more traditional subjects at Middletown High School, and then buses to Rogers High for his two JROTC classes. He often stays after class to participate in the extracurricular activities offered to cadets, including riflery, color guard and drill practice.

Jackson believes the program has bettered him as a person and will help him in the future. The birth of his sister, who is now 3, initially motivated him to join the program.

“I wanted her to look up to me,” he said. “For a period before high school, I was spending time with kids headed for trouble and I was easily influenced by them. Fortunately, I came from a family that was religious and had strong values. That, and some family friends and teachers, have really helped me become a better person in every way.”

His father gushes with pride when asked about his son. “What else could a father ask for in their children,” he said. “Putting others first, leading by example, being responsible and accountable for your actions, having a sense of duty, purpose and responsibility? Sean has been extremely strong and resilient, having been with me in the Marine Corps since the day he was born. The ROTC programs that Sean has been a part of have played a tremendous role in instilling leadership principles, personal responsibility and a sense of duty to teenagers that desperately need it at this point in their lives.”

Sean’s fellow cadets in the various

JROTC programs have been his primary friends. Although some plan to join the military after graduation, he said all are in the program to become better citizens and serve their community.

“This program helps cadets prepare for post-secondary success by teaching leadership skills, discipline, and focusing on character development all while emphasizing the importance of citizenship, both local and global, and the importance of giving back,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Christopher Corbett, who serves as the senior instructor and has oversight of the Newport JROTC program.

Corbett said that most of the graduates go on to two- and four-year college programs and fewer than five percent join the military directly out of high school. He noted that while the program is not a recruitment forum, the recent receipt by the Newport JROTC unit of the coveted title of Honor Unit with Distinction may spur special interest in West Point. The goal, of the program is to graduate students who are self-disciplined and self-confident, armed with the knowledge they can be all they want to be.

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