News: Beaufort County JROTC provides youth direction
Story by Sgt. Marcy Sanchez
BLUFFTON, S.C. - Change. The word can be used in a positive light or paint someone in a bad light. Change is particularly characteristic of adolescents who are seeking to find themselves while dealing with new experiences and opportunities.
Positive change is evident though in the more than 200 Beaufort County high school students who were offered the opportunity to challenge themselves during the 2014 Superintendent’s Cup at Bluffton High School in Bluffton, S.C., April 11.
The cup consisted of drill, physical fitness and academics competitions between five Beaufort County JROTC units. The event offered cadets the opportunity to compete with each other, testing their leadership and teamwork.
“We’re here to compete,” said retired Marine Col. Bob Wallace, the senior Marine instructor at Whale Branch High School. “When they get out on stage they step up and do what their supposed to do and trained to do.”
Wallace, who used to be the commanding officer of the Marine Corps’ Training Command in Quantico, Va., understands what it takes to be a leader and was drawn to the JROTC program because of the opportunities it offered.
“I always wanted to work with youth and thought this was an awesome way to do it,” said Wallace, a native of Anthony, Fla. “I take pride in seeing the young men and women develop. That’s what the program is all about, developing leadership.”
The growth of character and leadership is one characteristic that Bluffton residents, Darren and Carolyn Potter, first noticed in their son Ethan, a freshman at Bluffton High School who is in his first year with the Army JROTC program the school offers.
The Potters spoke about moving from New Jersey to Bluffton and their son changing schools due to the move.
“He used to stay in all the time and now is more social,” said Darren.
“He’s definitely more grown up. He gets up on his own and goes to school on his own,” mentioned Carolyn, whose military ties run deep with her father and uncle both serving in the Navy.
The Potters want their son to be an honest and respectable person.
“He’s on the right path, we’re very proud of him,” said the Potters, who attribute this to Ethan’s JROTC involvement.
Other cadets appreciated the lessons learned during their experience with the program.
“It’s one of the most demanding programs around, a lot of community service is involved and we try to help out as much as we can,” said Spud Stroud, a senior and second lieutenant with Bluffton High School’s Army JROTC. “We learn a lot about finances, respect and core values that make us better citizens outside of the school.
“I’ve noticed a change [in myself ] because before I joined JROTC I was always mouthing off to my dad,” added Sprout, who wants to continue in ROTC once in college. “Through JROTC I learned a lot of discipline, I’m a lot nicer to people now than I was before so it’s helped my character.”
Grayson Ammons, a junior and captain with Bluffton High School’s Army JRTOC felt that the program presented a way to communicate and boost self-esteem.
“I moved here from Texas and there was a big change here. People acted different, people talked different and I was always in solitude,” said Ammons. “When I first got here I couldn’t find a program that would help me explore the attributes that I had. By joining JROTC and growing in the ranks I learned to be more confident in myself, learned public speaking, and did volunteer work.”
Both Stroud and Ammons agreed that the skills learned and confidence gained led to a desire to improve themselves as much as possible after high school and throughout life.
“You see them grow and chew on what you’re teaching and then put it into action, not only in the classroom but in the rest of the school, in public, at restaurants, so you’re changing their lives,” said Wallace. “I want to see them become successful, believe in themselves and be fruitful, productive citizens.”