Anchors away… Elizabethton City Schools pursuing Navy Jr. ROTC program

Published 6:00 am Friday, July 26, 2019



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Travis Thompson knows what a Jr. ROTC program can do for high school students as he has witnessed it first hand and believes that the benefits it could bring to Elizabethton High School are well worth the wait for getting the approval to form a Navy Jr. ROTC program at the school.

“I think that it’s a great possibility that we can get this program up and running,” Thompson said. “We finished up the application process and we will be sending that off to the Navy within the next week.

“As it goes through their stages, we have been told it could be up until late spring before we know an answer on whether we are accepted or not.”

Thompson, who serves as the Director of Early Learning, Testing 6-12, Curriculum 6-12, Attendance & Related Services, and Data Services, works out of the school system’s central office.

Thompson said that from his research that the Jr. ROTC programs end at the tip of Northeast Tennessee.

“The potential that could come out of it for our students at Elizabethton is endless and not only the students but the community as well,” Thompson said. “I haven’t found another program in Unicoi, Carter, or Johnson County so it could pull in students from other places that want to be a part of the Jr. ROTC program.”

Even with the approval from the Secretary of the Navy for Elizabethton to have the program, there will be some hurdles that will need to be cleared once the approval is received.

“We would bring it back to the board with a plan to move forward with it,” added Thompson. “We would create a position to hire an instructor and really would be reaching out to the community for support financially to helping out with the cadets as volunteers.

“The plan will be built on what we need to do and then we have to order uniforms, rifles for drill team, colors — there’s a lot of things that go into that we cannot do until we know that we are accepted.

“We would love to get it up and running for the 2020-21 school year. It just depends on how soon we get back the acceptance to the application.”

Thompson shared that just because the program has a military format, that not all students that participate in a Jr. ROTC even follow through with pursuing a career in one of the military branches.

“I think that a lot of times students that go into the Junior ROTC program, their reasoning may not even be to join the military. Here in Elizabethton, we want to give kids all the options they can have,” continued Thompson.

“They may not be on the sports team or be in the band but it allows them to be a part of something great within the community.

“Elizabethton and Carter County in itself when you think about patriotism and veterans, it’s just in the blood. I think it gives students another way to come back to that.

“It also helps with the community feeling comfortable with the military,” Thompson continued. “They see the cadets in the program within that school and it helps with the community and connection with the military as a whole.

“This is everything that we are trying to develop anyway in the school system, but it’s another program that we can help reinforce the type of students that we are trying to produce to put into the community workforce.”

Even though there currently is a program in place, Thompson continues to be a staunch supporter of the Jr. ROTC participating as a judge at several competitions.

“I have a military background in the Marine Corps and when I was in Washington Co., I was able to work closely and even since I have been here, I volunteer to go and judge Junior ROTC competitions and interact with all the cadets from all over the East Coast,” stated Thompson.

“It’s pretty neat to see what kind of people they are and what they are developing to be.

“The program is definitely a confidence builder. Something that I have seen in the past is former students who went into the program without the ability to talk in front of people and after being in the Jr. ROTC could get in front of anybody and speak with confidence.

“The leadership that comes out of it is amazing to watch.”

Thompson said that the benefits are enormous for those students who may be considering enlisting in a military branch after graduation from high school.

“If they do the program it can help them when they go into boot camp,” Thompson added. “Say they go in on the enlisted side, instead of coming out a private from boot camp, they have the potential of coming out a PFC, an E2, so it can change the pay grade and boost them on the pay side right off the bat.

“Plus you are learning history, uniforms, ribbons, medals, and basically all the background of all the branches in the program.”

Thompson said that the student’s courses during the day would revolve around military studies in many different areas.

“As far as the Navy studies in the school day would be courses like citizenship, naval orientation, naval history, navigation, seamanship, leadership, nautical, astronomy, electronics, oceanography, drills, and commands.

“These are things that would be embedded in the school day. As they move forward in their military career, they will have all experienced some of this in the program.”