MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Nearly every high school in the country falls under the jurisdiction of a local Marine Corps recruitment sub station, who often recruit current junior or senior students into the Delayed Entry Program. The DEP allows these students to attend pre-boot camp training sessions at their respective RSSs, readying themselves for the challenge that lies ahead. However, this is not the only program offered to high school students in the way of Marine Corps preparation.
Established in 1916, the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, as well as its college-level ROTC brother, came into being as part of the National Defense Act. The act authorized high schools the option of loaning military equipment and the assignment of retired service members as instructors for any student participant who wanted to get a head-start on a future military career, or simply those who want to become better citizens.
As might be expected, Lejeune High School aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune has its own MCJROTC program, and in conjunction with four other Onslow County high school MCJROTC programs, these cadets underwent the 2011 Bulldog Leadership Course; a one-week training regimen aboard the base and satellite installations, June 18 through 24.
“This program combines kids from both military and civilian families, mixing them up and instills strong morals in them,” said retired Master Gunnery Sgt. James Gardiner, Marine instructor for the LHS MCJROTC. “It’s not about eventually joining the military, but enforces the Marine Corps lessons and builds their confidence and self-esteem.”
Over the seven-day period, the 70 cadets experienced the wide birth of Marine Corps culture, from observing such sections as the scout sniper school and the Military Working Police Dog kennels to participating in a physical fitness test and swim qualification. In addition to the physical side of the Marine Corps, the cadets also attended leadership and Marine Corps history classes as well as learning drill and the various Corps uniforms.
This is also the first year in which cadets who previously underwent the leadership course came back and acted as cadres, or cadets who took the place where active-duty noncommissioned officers were once in place as squad leaders.
“If I had not joined, I would’ve been a socially-awkward kid in the back of the class, hesitant to voice my opinions,” said MCJROTC Capt. Nicholas Ciaccio, the cadet company commander for the five schools’ MCJROTC programs. “Here, the high schoolers are pushed physically, mentally and sometimes emotionally, making them better citizens in the end, and preparing those who aim to one day become a Marine.”
The week’s events and classes culminated in a graduation ceremony at LHS on June 24, recognizing the cadets’ accomplishments and awarding trophies and medals to those who stood out among the rest in such areas as physical fitness and educational aptitude.
“The practical application these cadets can take away from this course are developed into life skills for whatever they may endeavor to do,” said retired Col. Joe Valore, senior Marine instructor for the LHS MCJROTC. “The aim is not recruitment. The aim is to make these high schoolers into better people.”
As the cadets left either lauded with medals or trophies, they were equal in the reward that they made it through the week-long training regimen that many others of their age are alien to. As the five high schools’ cadets returned to their respective corners of Onslow County, they relished in the taste they received of the Marine Corps culture and reflected on how they, as growing young adults, bettered themselves in all character aspects.