Don Gosney: Will a JROTC Program Come to De Anza High School?

blogimage.jpgSome editorial comments prior to the discussion of instituting a Junior Reserve Officer Training Program next year at De Anza High School.  This issue comes before the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s meeting on Wednesday June 11th.

At their meeting of May 29th a large group of citizens rose to speak against this program. []

I thought we had gotten past the time where we spat at the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who defend our country.  I thought we had moved on from calling them baby killers.
It’s as though we have people in our community that think we’re still fighting Tricky Dick and the Vietnam War.
Speakers at the May 29th Board meeting spoke about how nearly thirty years ago the Board voted against a JROTC program and even limited the availability of recruiters on the District’s campuses.
One speaker “called JROTC "a military recruitment mechanism" and said that 40 percent of high school students nationwide who enroll in JROTC go on to enlist in the military after graduation.”
The speaker continued, "The program will be under the wing of the Air Force, which is switching from training airplane pilots to training drone pilots."
If you interview the people who have volunteered to defend our country—to defend our rights—I think you’d be hard pressed to find many of them that relish the idea of going to war.  Most people, if given the choice, would much rather stay out of harm’s way rather than paint a target on their chest and invite someone to take a shot at them.
While the United States has intervened in areas of conflict far more than anyone would wish, much of what we’re involved with is defensive in nature—often to right a wrong.  We’re not like the countries of yesteryear seeking to conquer and add to our territories.  This isn’t the world we live in today. [Before anyone jumps in to throw Iraq in my face, I won’t defend what we did there or why we were there.]
Let’s not forget that we no longer have a Department of War—what we have is a Defense Department.
More than a hundred years ago the people of the United States took an isolationist position that kept us out of The War to End All Wars until we felt that we could no longer sit idly by.  When World War I was over, we went back to that isolationist policy and downsized our defenses to the point that—right up to the moment that the Japanese attacked the United States by bombing our naval forces at Pearl Harbor—while the rest of the world was at war, we maintained our isolationist policy and were woefully unprepared for what was done to us.
At that time, the United States had one of the weaker defense departments in the world.  What do you suppose the Japanese and the Germans might have done had we been prepared?  Even without the United States getting involved in either war, had the world known we were prepared we may never have had war declared against us.
To address a few of the points brought out at that May 29th meeting, the words of the speaker suggest that going into the military is a bad thing.  It’s as if she sees no value in the training and job skills that can be had while serving in defense of our country.
Like some others, this speaker’s words suggest that utilizing drones instead of manned aircraft is a bad thing. Technology has changed the world—including how we conduct the defense of our country.  When battles are fought we no longer run en masse onto the field of battle flailing about with our broadswords and battle-axes. We use the technology available to us to most effectively accomplish our goals with the minimum risk to OUR combatants and, as much as possible, minimizing the collateral damage to noncombatants.
There are two issues when it comes to the use of newer technology with the first being whether we should ever use force to settle the differences between countries and terrorist groups.  The second is whether we should use modern technology instead of putting American lives at risk.
There will always be people who feel that we should never defend ourselves but I’m not one of them.  It’s never black and white where you’re either a peacenik or a warmonger.  There’s always a middle ground.
Using smart bombs that are guided to their targets by laser helps in this regard.  And isn’t it better to send in an unmanned drone aircraft to gather information rather than risk the lives of American soldiers to gather the same information?  And would this speaker rather we send in manned aircraft that would put at risk the lives of the pilots and crew instead of sending in an unmanned drone?  I value the lives of our military personnel too much to ever want to ignore technology that may save lives.
But what does this all have to do with a JROTC program at De Anza?
The biggest fallacy is that a JROTC trains people how to kill or brainwashes them into killing machines.
One thing that is stressed probably more than anything else in any military training program is discipline.  At least in my opinion, this is something that our young people need more than anything else.
The discipline they are taught in a JROTC program carries over into the rest of their school life, their lives outside of school and even to when they go into the work world.  Embracing the idea that they have rules that must be followed, that they have to take responsibility for their actions and that others are depending on them are traits that are no longer being taught in our schools or by the parents of our youth.  More than anything else, we need programs that can instill this virtue.
Something else taught by these programs are Duty, Honor, Country.  
Knowing that we all have a duty to perform is critical. Whether it’s a duty to ourselves, our partners, our employers or our families, our young people need to understand the value of Duty.
When young people no longer understand or appreciate the difference between right and wrong, how are we supposed to deal with this?  When students cheat on their tests and their response is “what’s the big deal—everyone does it”, how are we supposed to react?
And as for being a proud American, some will never see the value in this and there’s little that can be done to change their way of thinking.  Personally, I like the idea that maybe we can get our young people to cultivate a feeling where they’re proud to be Americans.
What this speaker failed to mention is that JROTC students must maintain high scholastic standards to remain in the program. Traditionally, the academic work of JROTC students improves as a direct result if their involvement in the JROTC.
A JROTC program can also be a pathway towards college where the military will even pay for a student to attend college.

We live in a different world than where many of these naysayers are living.

Epilogue (posted on 6/12/14 at 11:30 AM):

At Wednesday night’s Board meeting nearly two dozen members of the community spoke out to try to convince the Board to vote supporting their positions. 

One Richmond resident sent in a letter accusing the US military of being murderers fighting illegal wars. Others spoke out against war and told of how the Air force will be actively recruiting the students of De Anza to enlist.

One woman seemed to have been confused about where she was at.  When she kept trying to shout down speakers and Board members who did not agree with her, it was like she thought she was at an Oakland City Council meeting where people from the audience routinely disrupt the meetings until they get their way.

About half of the speakers, though, were De Anza students and parents of De Anza students who welcomed the idea that they would have this opportunity.

De Anza Principal Bob Evans, as he was providing the details of the program, told the Board that he already had 200 of his students who had signed up to be a part of this academy and he reported that he had a lengthy waiting list of students who could not get into the original list.

Board members Ramsey, Groves, Kronenberg and Enos voted in favor of an amended motion to approve of the program (with a yearly audit/evaluation) while Board member Merriweather cited the financial issues as her reason for voting against the program.

After the vote the Board took a two minute recess and many of the community members used that time to confront Principal Evans and the Board members to angrily vent their continuing disapproval.  Three police officers were close by and at the ready in case their actions went beyond the loud and angry comments they had for those that disagreed with them.

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