AF JROTC Program at Independence High School

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This past weekend the writer attended the AFJROTC annual dinner dance at Independence High School.  The guests of honor were Squadron Commander LTC Buzz Lochocki from Independence, LTC Nelson English, Chief, Tim Ledford Mint Hill Police, Staff Sergeant Bill O’Neal, and Mr. & Mrs. David Legrand, Principal at Independence High.

The NCO’s who led the event were Senior Master Sergeant Bradley Gibson, and Master Sergeant Romain Bell both are on the Independence ROTC teaching staff.  The night was filled with a delicious chicken dinner prepared by the culinary staff and culinary students at the school.  It was a fun filled evening with a lot of razzing in a ritual called the “Grog” where cadets must act out pre-selected role plays they pick from a bucket.  There was a brief but powerful message from LTC Lochocki to the cadets about what is the meaning of “Success” in our lives.

Finally, what is really moving every time my wife Judy and the writer attend a military banquet is the tradition of the empty POW & MIA table to remember those patriots who served for their sacrifice to our nation and to their families.  A reminder, that not everyone who answers the call to duty finds their way home.  This is an honorable military tradition that is always celebrated in honor of these brave heroes.

The AFJROTC mission is to develop responsible citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and communities.  The objective of JROTC is to educate, train and develop cadets in citizenship, instill responsibility, build character, self discipline, promote community service, and provide instruction in aerospace fundamentals.

The AFJROTC program is grounded in Air Force core values which include integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we pursue in this life.  The curriculum is focused on Air Force heritage and rich traditions.  This includes the development of flight, applied flight sciences, military aerospace policies, and space exploration.

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The curriculum provides academic studies, character education, learning life skills, leadership, team-building, intramural competition, and field trips along with training opportunities.  A cadet can experience flying in a flight simulator and even accomplish their first solo flight in the simulator.

Community service and attending events is also a core responsibility of a cadet to give back and serve their community through the program.  This certainly builds character and many cadets volunteer their time to support non-profit events.

What differentiates the AFJROTC program at Independence from the other good programs offered by the Air Force, Army, Navy, and USMC in Charlotte is their commitment to focus on citizenship and mentorship programs offered to the cadets through the ROTC staff at the school.

According to SMSgt Gibson only 20% of cadets will attend the various military academies in our nation or continue with ROTC in college after graduation.  Some cadets may go directly into the military to gain excellent training in many technical and mechanical fields of study.  However, the vast majority will move on with their lives in different directions to make their own contribution in the civilian world.  Therefore, knowing these former cadets have developed character, appreciate citizenship, gained self-esteem, are self disciplined, and are honorable and productive citizens makes the instructors mission well worthwhile.  To make a difference in a young persons life is very rewarding and satisfying.  We believe we are truly changing lives while providing a sense of purpose and direction, said SMSgt Gibson.

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Ed Berti
Ed is retired and remains active as a freelance writer, local journalist and independent contractor. He is engaged in print and electronic media writing stories covering business, sports, hometown news and veteran's affairs including articles of interest to various media outlets. Ed is a graduate of Wagner College where he earned an MBA and holds a BBA from Pace University.
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