Many of you may have heard about Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) but may not really know what it’s all about. Is it a military prep program? Do you have to join the military if you participate in JROTC? What are the advantages of the program? What branches of the military have JROTC programs? Is there a program at my high school? These are all great questions! Lucky for you, we have all of the answers.
If you are a high school student or a parent, we’ve put together the definitive guide to the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), so you can make informed decisions on whether JROTC may be right for you.
What Does Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Mean In High School?
Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC, is a high school elective program whose mission is to teach students citizenship, leadership, character, and community service. The core values are at the heart of JROTC, whose creed emphasizes working to better the cadet’s family, school, and country.
You may think that JROTC is a military-preparation program, but as you can see, it’s not in its mission. Since its beginnings in 1916, the purpose of JROTC has been to teach cadets leadership, geography, civics, health, global awareness, life skills, and U.S. history. With this focus, you will be better positioned to function in life itself, even if you never go into the military.
What Is The Purpose Of JROTC?
The goal of JROTC programs is good citizenship. As a JROTC cadet, you’ll get a sense of home and a greater sense of family. You will be taught the values of citizenship by doing the right thing daily. In a JROTC class, you can build skills such as leadership, self-confidence, and discipline. These are qualities that are necessary for you to succeed in any career. Personal skills like health, nutrition, and financial management are also stressed.
What Does A Typical JROTC Program Look Like?
JROTC programs are funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) and taught by retired service members. Course content includes branch-specific military history and customs. You will wear a uniform that corresponds to the uniforms worn by military personnel in their respective branch. You’ll wear your uniform once a week and at JROTC sponsored events. You’ll also take part in physical fitness training and drill (marching) instruction. Drill is a way to help you learn discipline and learn how the military operated as a group.
As a JROTC cadet, you’re assigned ranks comparable to the chain of command of the military branch that your JROTC unit. To be promoted, you must gain military knowledge as you progress through the program and demonstrate practical skills and leadership. Like the military, as you are promoted in rank, you are expected to help teach and lead cadets who are of a lower rank.
Here is the rank structure for an Air Force JROTC unit:
Cadet Officer Ranks (lowest to highest)
- Cadet Second Lieutenant
- Cadet First Lieutenant
- Cadet Captain
- Cadet Major
- Cadet Colonel
Cadet Enlisted Ranks (lowest to highest)
- Cadet Airman
- Cadet Airman First Class
- Cadet Senior Airman
- Cadet Staff Sergeant
- Cadet Technical Sergeant
- Cadet Master Sergeant
- Cadet Senior Master Sergeant
- Cadet Chief Master Sergeant
How Do I Join A JROTC Unit?
The Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marines and run their version of the program for high school students. JROTC is the largest youth training and development program in the nation, with more than 550,000 students participating in 3,390 units at U.S. high schools across the country.
To join JROTC, look for it as an elective in your school’s course offerings. High schools without their own JROTC program often have agreements with nearby schools, so if your school doesn’t have a program, you may be able to participate in a neighboring school’s program.
Is There A JROTC Program At My High School?
Here are where JROTC units are assigned:
- Air Force JROTC Units (click on the “Jr ROTC” option on the sidebar)
- Army JROTC Units
- Navy JROTC Units (click on the “Find an NJROTC Unit” tab)
- Marine JROTC Units
- Coast Guard JROTC Units
Is There A Military Obligation After JROTC?
If you’re in a JROTC unit, you are not required to join the military after high school, and it’s not a military preparation program. Again, the mission of JROTC is to prepare you to become a better citizen. With that being said, JROTC is regulated by the military, and if you take part in the program, it may improve your rank upon enlisting and give you an edge during basic military training.
Can JROTC Prepare Me For Life After High School?
The answer is definitely! Studies have shown that there are several positive academic and non-academic benefits of participation in JROTC. A Rand report showed that there were positive associations between GPA and JROTC participation. Students who were part of a JROTC unit were less likely to drop out of high school and attended classes more frequently. JROTC cadets have a stronger sense of community and pursued military careers through ROTC scholarships and service academies. JROTC is also seen in a favorable light by college admissions counselors.
Here are some advantages of participating in a JROTC program:
- Leadership skills
- Communication and collaborative skills
- College financial planning skills
- Community service skills
- Problem-solving skills
Does JROTC Help Me If I Join ROTC In College?
Yes! Although ROTC is more militarily-minded, if you have been through a JROTC program, you’ll be familiar with the structure of the program.
What Scholarships Are Available Through JROTC?
As a JROTC cadet, you can start earning school-specific scholarships as early as the 9th grade. These scholarships will cover the cost of an education at 260 different colleges. Depending on the school, you can earn up to $6,000 each year you’re in the JROTC program. If you were in a cadet leadership position, you could get an additional $3,375 per year. The best part is that you don’t need to apply for the scholarship. The funds are automatically added to your financial aid package for the selected participating college.
If you want to explore ways to make yourself a better citizen and think that the military may be in your future, then you may want to explore joining a High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program. JROTC may make you a better person and be a benefit to your community and your country.
Jim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.
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