Interest continues to grow in Washington’s Naval JROTC program with more than 100 cadets enrolled this year. The unit grew substantially this year with the addition of Union High School students.

If the unit can maintain 100 or more cadets for two consecutive October reporting times, then “we can apply to be a funded naval program,” according to Marine Master Sgt. Tim Gates, who is in his third year here as the instructor.

The JROTC program began in the 2014-15 school year and has enjoyed success since its beginning. Many high schools have had JROTC programs for many years. It is nothing new, but was late in coming to Washington. It was started for both Washington and Borgia high school students. The program is based at Washington High School where classes are held.

The first instructor was Lt. Tim Raines of Eureka, who should be credited for getting the program started. An advocate of the program was the high school principal at that time, Frank Wood. He had tried to get an Army JROTC program, but that branch had cut back on starting new units, and the Navy stepped in to begin the program.

There are two other JROTC programs in high schools in Franklin County. There is a Marine unit at Pacific and an Air Force program at St. Clair.

The Korean War veterans chapter in Washington has given financial support to all three units. It also has given other support.

Parents of cadets have given their support to the unit. They recognized the benefits to their children, formed a booster club and have and continue to assist the unit.

The program has put some students on the path of good citizenship and individual responsibility. Others didn’t need a push from JROTC to find the path.

The change in student attitudes toward life has been apparent in many of the cadets. Some were headed in the wrong direction. JROTC instilled discipline in their lives, respect for authority, a sense of strong citizenship, and a desire to face up to the challenges in their lives and to be a positive example to the other students.

We have encountered a number of the cadets since the program began and the discipline and respect for others is clearly evident. They are polite, caring, respectful and responsible young men and women. They stand out among their peers.

The program’s purpose is not to prepare our young people for the military. However, the influence it has on the cadets does direct some of them to the military. The ones who decide to enlist in the military are considerably ahead of those who didn’t have JROTC experience.

Master Sgt. Gates said the unit was in good shape when he arrived except for the number of students enrolled. He added that getting the students to help in enrollment has helped.

The Washington unit has a goal of attaining 2,000 hours of community service. The unit has hit 500 hours. The cadets assist in a number of community events, such as the Alzheimer’s Walk. They also help the athletic department at sporting events such as cross country runs and track and field meets.

The Navy pushes citizenship development and leadership as goals. Drilling is part of the training, along with marksmanship training. The cadets compete against other units in several other skill competition events. Visits to naval facilities are included. Scholarships have been awarded.

The training the cadets receive is important in preparing students for life careers.

We strongly recommend the cadet program for any student. The training they receive will stay with them the rest of their lives. The discipline training is needed more today than ever before.

The cadets have our salute! We are proud of them.