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SEB's Junior ROTC program gains recognition
alpha company inspection
Southeast Bulloch High School's Junior ROTC program is one of the best in the state. - photo by ROGER ALLEN/special

     Many students at Southeast Bulloch High School belong to a specific club or organization. Most gather together before the bell rings, and are easily identifiable by their group jacket or shirt. Every one of these groups has strict rules as to student conduct and performance, which accounts for an "Esprit de Corps" within each group.
     One such group is SEB's "Jacket Battalion," which is part of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) of the U.S. Army. What makes the cadets stand out is the way they conduct themselves in public. SEB Principal Joni Walker-Seier believes "every student at SEB would be better off if they took at least one semester of cadet instruction."
     Seier said "If I want a job done right, I'll give it to Major Mac and his cadets."
     Despite the fact that they are always working on some school or community service project, many believe the JROTC's primary function is to find students who will join the Army when they graduate. That, SEB JROTC Commander Major Thomas McElwee said, is the furthest thing from the truth.
     McElwee said: "The JROTC mission is to create good productive American citizens by helping them develop good job skills and foster good citizenship."
     McElwee and Sergeant Major Whitfield, his second-in-command, started the SEB JROTC program close to 18 years ago.
     Jacket Battalion Commander Cory Rodriguez and Battalion Executive Officer Chase Sandlin are the cadets' top student officers. Their uniforms are festooned with medals and ribbons won for excellence in academics, outstanding military skills, and top placement in ROTC team competitions. Both Rodriguez and Sandlin enjoy being cadets.
     Rodriguez said, "Being in the JROTC has made me accept responsibility for my behavior. I intend to join the Army. Once I finish basic training, I know what I've learned in the JROTC will open lots of doors in the criminal justice field."
      Sandlin, on the other hand, said "I'm going to college to earn a degree in American History once I graduate".
     And JROTC isn't only for boys anymore. McElwee said there are almost as many women cadets in the SEB program as there are men. In fact, Rodriguez' older sister convinced him to join the cadets. The highest-ranking female in the "Jacket Battalion" leadership is also the battalion's top NCO (non-commissioned officer).
     Command Sergeant Major Kimberly Skaarup, a junior at SEB, said:

     "Once I joined the JROTC I fell in love with the program," she said "My dad can see the changes that being in the battalion has made in me, and he tells me that he's really proud of me."
     Every member of the battalion must show a mastery of the Cadet Course Curriculum; knowledge of Cadet drill regulations; and undergo a formal uniform inspection by their commanders every year. Every third year, however, Army Command personnel arrive to conduct a formal military inspection of the entire SEB program.
     The results: for the nearly two decades the program has been at SEB, the Cadets of the Jacket Battalion have earned the Army ROTC's highest award, that of being an "Honor Unit with Distinction." The award places the battalion among the top 10 percent of all JROTC and ROTC units nationwide.


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