NH Junior ROTC: JROTC in the North Country. Programs in Langdon & Whitefield are making a difference.

NH Teen Articles - NH Junior ROTC in the North Country.                   

JROTC in the North Country
By John Mosley

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These days, high school-age students across the board are being strongly encouraged to participate in elective and extracurricular activities to supplement their usual classroom education-extracurriculars keep kids out of trouble, teach them valuable skills, look good on a resume-the list of benefits goes on.

However, up in New Hampshire's remote North Country, options for youths seeking such Junior ROTC Logo.involvement can be few and far between. Aside from sports and the arts, one of the few alternatives available to students is the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). Sponsored by the various branches of the United States Armed Forces, JROTC aims to instill in young people the same attitudes displayed by those who have served the nation in military service.

Despite JROTC's proven track record elsewhere, only one ARMY JROTC programs currently exist in the North Country, Whitefield, New Hampshire. There are also other active programs downstate and we'll also profile Langdon.

I spoke with the commanding officers in charge of the two local Army JROTC programs to gain some insight into the workings of the Corps, both in general and specific to each program. In addition, Cadet Lieutenant Jamie Morris, a student involved with the Whitefield, offered a student's perspective on just what exactly the JROTC lifestyle has to offer for those interested.

JROTC at a Glance

There are currently close to two thousand Army JROTC programs nationwide, as well as a couple overseas in countries such as Germany and Italy, with membership totaling close to three hundred thousand active members. Separate programs also exist that are sponsored by the United States Navy, Air Force, and Marines. The Navy and Air Force branches boast similar numbers, with the Marine programs slightly less common.

Most JROTC programs are scheduled around a school's regular curriculum, counting as an elective for students wishing to participate. All associated materials for the course-books, uniforms, etc.-are property of the U.S. Government, and there are no out-of-pocket costs to students.

Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Gearhart is the Senior Army Instructor for the White Mountains Regional High School JROTC program, based out of Whitefield, New Hampshire. He provided some further background into the goals and motivations that drive these programs:

"One of the big misconceptions with JROTC is that only kids who want to enlist sign up," Gearhart says, explaining that that could not be further from the truth, "JROTC is a citizenship and character development program. Our mission is to motivate students to become better citizens... to make them successful, no matter what they go on to do." He goes on to note that JROTC is, in fact, expressly forbidden from teaching war-fighting tactics by the Army's Cadet Command, which is in charge of developing the program's curriculum. "We are different from Senior ROTC-their mission is to prepare future military leaders; ours is to prepare citizens."

Lieutenant Colonel Gearhart and the White Mountains Program

LTC Gearhart has been in charge of the White Mountains JROTC program for the last nine years (the program has existed for seventeen). In that time, the JROTC unit has consistently been ranked an Honor Unit with Distinction, and the Color Guard has ranked fourth in the nation twice.

"Some programs have close to a thousand kids volunteering to choose from. We usually have twelve to fifteen," notes Gearhart, "So that's a pretty big deal."

Prior to taking over in Whitefield, the Lieutenant Colonel served for twenty-three years in active and reserve service capacities. Then he took to teaching:

"(After retiring from active service) I taught Senior ROTC at the college level. I have two high school-age boys and thought, 'Yeah, no way,' when teaching Junior ROTC was first mentioned. But I started talking about retiring, and we wanted to come to New Hampshire to retire."

Gearhart says the scenic Granite State made for an ideal location to settle down. When an opportunity arose in the region, the decision to take the position came rather simply:

"There was a vacancy (at White Mountains Regional High School), I applied and went in for an interview."

And the rest is history. Looking back, Gearhart has no regrets with taking over the program:

"I had some really great jobs in twenty-three years of service, but I've never been more satisfied. The location's fantastic, and I love watching the growth I see in my kids over the years."   (continued...)

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