What is JROTC?


From left to right, Rick Strickland, Jeff Ullom, Timothy Caballero, and Kolby Kleinshnitz, after morning drill practice Monday, March 7th, in the West Gym.

Alexa-Ann Roehl, Reporter

“What is JROTC?” is a question students in the program at West High School get all too often. JROTC – or Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps – is “a program with a lot of leadership, and character development” said Colonel (Ret.) Rick Strickland. AK-033 participates in a variety of different activities: drill, color guard, field trips to the base, physical training, flights and flight simulator trainings, and of course, academics. “…It helps the [cadets] know what integrity is and to be honest, learn how to work as a team, and leadership; which is a lifelong skill.” said Senior Master Sergeant (Ret.) Jeffrey Ullom.

Strickland spent over 30 years active duty in the air force. His job was aircraft maintenance, a crew chief in the back of an AWACS plane. Strickland ended his military career as an air battle manager. Strickland has been the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor for AK-033 for 3 years now. He thoroughly enjoys working with the cadets, because it is a very rewarding job. “I fell into this job on accident… I have worked with youth in the past, but this is even more rewarding to me.”

Ullom spent 23 years active duty in the Air National Guard. When he first joined, he was a mechanic on a C-130, and ended his military career as a flight engineer on a C-130. Ullom had been recommended for this job, which he says he is grateful for because it has offered him so many great experiences. He has been the Aerospace Science Instructor for AK-033 for one year.

“I think the biggest misconception people have about JROTC is that we’re military bound, we don’t do anything fun, or cool; we’re just strict,” says Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Rebecca Syrup, a second year cadet. Syrup is also the drill team commander for West. The AK-033 had 5 different team that competed at the annual drill team competitions, the most that the corps has had since 2009. “Humble because of knowledge; mighty because of sacrifice” is a quote that the cadets on the drill team know all too well. Staff Sergeant Timothy Caballero is one of the two Airmen from JBER that come to West every weekday to help the drill team win “a cheap piece of plastic” in Caballero’s words, referring to a trophy. “Before we go on the drill floor, Caballero always tells us ‘get out there, and kick some butt. Everything we’ve worked for, is all for these next 10 minutes. y’all go this. Go get ‘em.’” says Syrup.

In high school, Caballero was in JROTC all four years, and he says it has provided him with an endless amount of lifelong skills. “I owe it all to one of my old instructors, Chief Master Sergeant (Ret.) Robert Butler. He inspired me, and mentored me to join the Air Force and do my 20 years, and then become an instructor myself,” says Caballero.

“One of my most favorite things about JROTC is the family, and that it offers so many different opportunities,” says Syrup.