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Cortez school district courting Air Force JROTC program

JROTC provides leadership, character development
R. Wayne Barron, Director of Region 6 of the Air Force Junior ROTC program, speaks to U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and Re-1 School Board Members Kara Suckla and Sherri Noyes on Monday, June 5, at Montezuma-Cortez High School.

Representatives from the U.S. Air Force visited Montezuma-Cortez High School this week to gauge the school’s potential as a JROTC host.

R. Wayne Barron, director of Region 6 of the Air Force Junior ROTC program, and Air Force Lt. Col. Warner Wright visited the school for a site survey Monday. About 244 high school are on the waitlist for a JROTC program.

Members of the Re-1 Board of Education, Cortez Mayor Karen Sheek, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and district administrators listened as Barron discussed the program at the M-CHS library.

Barron said the program helps kids stay busy and involved in their communities.

“I believe this is one of the best youth programs in the nation,” he said.

The Air Force Junior ROTC, or Reserve Officer Training Corps, provides character and leadership development for high-schoolers across the nation,. Though the program is through the Air Force, participants are not obligated to join the military, according to the program’s website.

Tipton spoke highly of the program, saying it would be money well-spent.

“The benefits to kids are extraordinary,” he said.

After the site survey, M-CHS will be scored on its viability as a JROTC host and would be added to the waitlist, Barron said. He said he was impressed with the M-CHS facility, but said it’s likely that 2020 would be the earliest year that M-CHS could be offered the chance to start a JROTC program.

Retired Air Force Col. Michael Pasquin, an occasional substitute teacher in the district, approached school board members last year to advocate for JROTC. M-CHS had a similar program in the 1970s but it was discontinued, he said.

Pasquin also visited Cortez Middle School this year to tell students about the program. A total of 278 Cortez Middle School students were briefed about JROTC, and 125 expressed interest in joining a program, Pasquin said in an email.

Schools with JROTC programs are expected to have at least 10 percent of the school’s population enrolled in the program, Pasquin said. For M-CHS, that would mean 65-70 students.

M-CHS might have an edge on the waitlist because of Colorado’s low involvement in JROTC. The state has only 11 programs, but based on its population, should have at least 15, he said.

Some states have more than their share of JROTC programs, but some states have none, Barron added.

If M-CHS were selected for a program, two instructors would teach the JROTC curriculum exclusively, receive half their district salaries from the Air Force. JROTC programs require significant storage space for uniforms, drill rifles and other equipment, Barron said.

Students from other districts, such as Dolores and Mancos, would be given opportunities to participate in the program, he said, but a school’s viability is based only on the host school.

For more information, visit the JROTC website at afjrotc.com or contact Pasquin at mikepasquin@gmail.com.


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