The mission and development of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program at the Southwest Area Career Center at Monett were detailed for members of the Monett Kiwanis Club during their meeting this past week.
First Sergeant John Marbut, who has been with the JROTC program in Monett from its beginning , made the presentation. He was accompanied by students Monica Falcon, Mollea Sisney and Alysa Haverly who demonstrated an original drill routine.
Marbut reported that Monett has one of the smallest of the 1,488 Junior ROTC programs in the system. Now in its sixth year, the Monett program has 51 students. Normally programs begin with 50 to 55 participants.
Despite its small size, Monett's program has ranked well when students have gone into competition with larger schools. The JROTC program in Little Rock, for example, has 550 in it. Yet Monett's teams consistently placed third or fourth in competitions entered.
Because of scheduling at the Career Center, students from some of the 14 schools sending participants to Monett only get an hour a day in JROTC. Some programs have JROTC students four hours a day. Monett's program condenses a four-year program into two years. Participants find time for academics as well as drills.
Tests of all the JROTC programs on academics found Monett students tied for third place with a number of other schools, showing the work done in Monett is successful, Marbut said.
Drills are the showpiece of the program. Lasting five to nine minutes, drills are created by the students to be done on a gym floor and may use rifles that weigh seven-and-a-half pounds. Students compete in color guard drills as well as formation work. Rifle teams compete for accuracy with BB guns.
Teaching citizenship is a major part of JROTC's emphasis, Marbut said. As part of that effort, students complete 2,500 to 3,000 hours of community service each school year. A wide range of activities are involved from attending many community events with the Color Guard, helping in programs like the Kiwanis Club's pancake breakfasts or taking veterans from the Missouri Veterans Home in Mt. Vernon downtown to attend festivities during Apple Butter Makin' Days.
Marbut explained that cadets raise money through their public service, including the Rent-A-Cadet program, to cover travel expenses for trips and competitions.
Earlier this year Marbut and Colonel Maela Lohman, now in her second year with the program, took students on an extended trip to visit a military base on the Great Lakes. Along the way they visited military installations, viewed how soldiers live, stopped at the arch in St. Louis Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois and witnessed the impeachment debate of the Illinois governor by the state legislature.
One of the highlights of the trip, Marbut said, was seeing a World War II vintage submarine at the Great Lakes base and one of two surviving landing ship transports used in the D-Day landing. After the current school year ends, cadets will head off to summer camp at Camp Clark in Nevada.
Marbut said he was proud of the students' achievements. He felt the program was having a significant impact in the lives of many young people who may otherwise have difficulty focusing on schoolwork or having purpose in their lives.
Kiwanis Vice President Frank Washburn presided at the meeting. Next week the Springfield Cardinals will be the subject of discussion. The Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesdays at Happy House restaurant for a meal and a program.