JROTC leaders build accomplished program

Emma Taylor, Managing Editor

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Lots of boys and girls look up to their grandpa who was in the Army or their mom who is a part of the Air Force. Those who serve in the military are heroes to all.

GRC is fortunate enough to have two of these heroes – Master Sergeant Lee and Colonel Alexander – to teach our JROTC program to help mold the service men and women of the future. 

Smoke Signals managing editor Emma Taylor asked Master Sergeant Lee and Colonel Alexander to reflect on their years of service and teaching.

What branch of service were you in and what years?

 Alexander: I was in the U.S. Army from 1982-2010 (just under 28 years of active duty).

Lee: I was in the U.S. Army from Aug 1987 through July 2011, retiring with 24 years of Active Service.

How did you wind up teaching for the public-school system?

 Alexander: I always wanted to be a high school teacher; I come from a family of teachers. This position came open at the same time I decided to retire from the Army.

 Lee: Once the U.S. Army Cadet Command certified me to teach Army JROTC, I started looking for teaching vacancies. I actually turned down a JROTC position in Tennessee, because it did not feel like a good fit.

Ultimately, I was contacted for an interview here at GRC and jumped at the opportunity when I was offered the position.

How did your military training/experience come into play when building this program?

 Alexander: Many things – basic discipline, mentoring others, competitive spirit, organizational skills, leadership skills & training, and the study and love of history.

  Lee: I spent 16 years of my 24-year career in Recruiting. Obviously, the job of a Recruiter is to interact with high school students. That made the transition to teaching high school pretty easy.

How has this program grown since you started?

 Alexander: It hasn’t actually grown in numbers, but has grown in quality of students and support to the community.  It has also improved competitively.

 Lee: When I started teaching here, we were finishing up our time at the old school, and we were located down in the trailer next to the Phoenix Academy. Once we moved into the new school we began to receive a lot more attention from students and teachers. Everyone started to really see what we were about. That created a lot more interest in the student population.

What are some of the ambitions that you have for this program?

 Alexander: To continue to grow and improve in all aspects, especially the competitive side.

 Lee: We are one of the best JROTC programs in this region, and I want that to continue. It’s not just about how full our trophy case is; it’s really about the difference that we have made in our students’ lives, and are they ready to succeed in whatever they decide to do after high school.  

What about our JROTC program makes you most proud?

 Alexander: Our relationship with the community and administration. Also, the success of many of our graduates.

 Lee: Seeing the progression of our Cadets through the years and seeing them as successful young adults. Most freshmen in our program are terrified when they have to give a short speech at the end of the school year. By the time they are seniors, they are teaching classes, giving briefings to our administration, and leading and mentoring the younger Cadets.   

What would you say to students considering joining JROTC?

  Alexander: We are a “family” where friends are made. A family that works and plays hard together, but also has its “issues” like any family that we work through.

 Lee: Come and talk to me! I am not nearly as scary as some people think.  I consider myself a “people person,” and would like the chance to give you the opportunity to be a part of our family.

With Veteran’s Day coming up, what do you find important for readers to know about military service?

Alexander:  A couple of things: (1) not every person is qualified or prepared to be in our military today; and (2) military service prepares you for any future dreams or endeavors. 

 Lee: Military service is a commitment to a lifestyle that is not for everyone. But, if you give it 100%, I promise you will end up a better person. All branches of the military have great opportunities for young adults. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.