Posted by: arbeam | January 24, 2015

NJROTC program growing at South Kitsap High School

Soth Kitsap NJROTC Banner

NJROTC PatchCapt. Ed Tetrick founded the first Navy Junior ROTC program in 1996 at South Kitsap High School. Since then the program has grown, along with becoming active in the community. This year, there were 175 cadets, including more than 90 ninth graders, according to Capt. Todd Schapler (U.S. Navy Ret.), senior Naval Science instructor.

But Schapler, along with fellow instructor Senior Chief Harold Vickers, is looking to grow the program to 225 cadets or more. This is the duos first year teaching at SKHS. “We can accommodate more than 200,” Schapler said. “If we get 300, we can get another instructor. “Having all those freshmen were really challenging, but that is what we need. Cadets invited their friends, not us going out and recruiting them. We don’t want to force any one to join.”

Schapler, a Seattle native, spent 28 years in the Navy. He spent most of the time as a pilot in Jacksonville, Fla., and spent time in Maryland and Japan. He said after he got out of the military, he worked as a commercial airline pilot. But he got recalled to active duty in 2005 and spent several tours in Afghanistan.

Vickers, a Dallas native, retired three years ago after 26 years in the Navy.

About 70 percent of the program consists of males. “The male-female part of the unit doesn’t come up,” Vickers said. “They are all sailors; they are all cadets. The real focus is on the unit itself.”
Vickers said each month there is a competition or project for the cadets. Schapler said the program is not designed as a “military recruiting tool.” “Some of the kids do decide to join the military, but the vast majority of them do not,” he said.

Schapler said the objective of the program is to teach leadership, citizenship, community service, personal responsibility and how to study.

The stated mission of the unit is to build self confidence in the Cadets through:

• Promoting patriotism
• Developing informed and responsible citizens
• Developing respect for constructed authority
• Developing leadership potential
• Promoting high school completion
• Promoting higher education
• Promoting community service
• Developing a high degree of personal honor, self-reliance, individual discipline and leadership
• Promoting an understanding of the basic elements and need for national security
• Providing information on the military services as a possible career
• Providing an alternative to gangs
• Providing incentive to live healthy and drug free
“The important thing for us is to keep the cadets engaged, grow them as future leaders by teaching them leadership skills and for them to have fun,” Schapler said.

He said in areas where gang activity is strong, the program is a good alternative. “This is also an after-school program,” Schapler said. He said once school is out, more than 50 students practice or socialize.
Schapler said the cadets are competitive, but there is “no discord in the unit.”

“The kids get along really well,” Schapler said. “They are a family.”
Schapler said he and Vickers keep a “close eye” on the cadets and if there’s a problem, they intervene for other teachers. “A chat with me and Vickers is enough to put a kid back inline,” he said.

Schapler said if a cadet wants to advance in ranks within the unit, there are strict grade requirements. “We counsel the kids all the time,” he said. “We talk to them a lot about the grade requirements. There is no freebies.”
Competition
The four marksmen who advanced to the Secretary of the Navy Regional Marksman Competition are female cadets — Danielle Corpuz, Breanna Emery, Jessica Hasel and Katelynne Croston, all juniors.

The regional competition is Feb. 19-21 in Phoenix. All regional qualifiers advance to the national competition in March. The rifles used in the competition are air rifles that fire 1.77-millimeter pellets.
Vickers said the unit’s drill team took first place during their last competition.

“This is the first time they have done that since 2011,” he said.
Schapler said the unit’s Booster Club is very active and have several fundraisers planned to help raise funding for the group to attend competitions.

Community service

Vickers said on Jan. 19, the cadets helped clean up Givens Community Field, Washington Veterans Home at Retsil and along the waterfront. “We want to change everyone’s perception of these young people,” Vickers said. “People are going to see you in a new light. Represent this unit well.”

The cadets will clean-up a section of Sedgwick Avenue between Jackson and State Highway 16 on Jan. 31 as part of the unit’s Adopt-A-Road project, Schapler said. “These kids are enthusiastic and the project came from one of the cadets,” he said. “We want to spend about two hours every month on the road project.”

Both Schapler and Vickers put in long hours each school day, along with some weekends. “We working with a high-caliber of student and we want them to succeed,” Schapler said.

by Dannie Oliveaux,  Port Orchard Independent 

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