Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. Navy to sink Pasco High NJROTC program

DADE CITY — The U.S. Navy has decided to shut down 19 Naval Junior ROTC programs at the end of June, including the one at Pasco High School.

The move came down to one simple fact: The schools have not fielded the required minimum number of cadets — 100 — in at least five years. Pasco High's NJROTC enrollment this year is 50.

"We cannot maintain units that consistently fail to meet minimum enrollment standards and are not in compliance with NJROTC program directives," Rear Adm. David F. Steindl, commander of Naval Service Training Command in Illinois, said in a news release.

The news hit the school's cadets hard when they heard about it Thursday. By Friday, they sported "Save ROTC" T-shirts and had begun planning a way to keep the program.

"We were all in amazement," said junior Austen Crowder, the unit's executive officer, who wore a T-shirt proclaiming "Chicks dig the uniform."

"Then it turned into disappointment, a saddened mood," Crowder said. "Once we started talking, everyone got energized to the point we could save it. We're going to work hard to save it."

The T-shirts are but the first step, said sophomore Hayley Smith, the unit's public affairs officer. The cadets plan to lobby lawmakers with e-mails, letters and videos supporting their efforts.

"A lot of cadets want to fly up to D.C. to protest," Smith said. "It's not just Pasco High School that's being affected. It's the community."

It's also the students.

Smith said the program helped her turn her life around.

"I used to get in a lot of trouble. I was really disrespectful to people and did things I shouldn't be doing," she related. "After being in ROTC I have straight A's now, and I've learned a lot about respect. It's okay to swallow your pride once in a while and say, 'Yes, sir.' "

Junior Cynthia Rodriguez shared a similar story.

As a freshman she had horrible grades and got into "serious trouble." She went to tutoring with an ROTC member and learned about the program. She decided to join.

Her grades soared and her attitude improved. She credited the atmosphere of support and caring in the unit.

"When we come in here, we're weak. We think we can't even do a pushup," said Rodriguez, now squad leader for the unit's second platoon. "But when we get out of here, we're strong, not only physically but mentally. And you feel like you've accomplished something. … I really don't want this to be my last year."

Unit commander John McGuire, in his second year at the school, said he has tried several efforts to bring in new recruits. But unlike more successful programs such as the one at Gulf High School, Pasco High's unit has not proved a draw. This year, for instance, 65 incoming freshmen indicated an interest, but only 21 signed up.

"A lot of it has to do with the culture of the area," McGuire said. "I can't put my finger on any specific reason."

Crowder suggested that the ROTC simply doesn't have enough people talking about it positively. He hoped that now isn't too late to generate some backing.

But it might be.

Only the secretary of the Navy can establish or "disestablish" ROTC units, said Lt. Charity Hardison, public affairs officer for the Naval Service Training Command in Illinois. "At this point, there are no actions Pasco High School can take that will warrant a reversal of the decision, or another review of the decision."

The cadets still plan to try.

"We may not have a chance," acknowledged Rodriguez, the squad leader. "But we still want it, because it's important to us."

McGuire said he will work with the students to get them into the proper elective courses for next year, and will try to ensure that their ROTC credits count toward graduation. He said usually students must complete three years of the program for the ROTC credits to be effective.

If anything, he said, the cadets will take one final lesson from this situation, that of standing up for themselves and letting their voices be heard.

"We may lose," he said, "but at least you went down with a fight."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

U.S. Navy to sink Pasco High NJROTC program 02/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2011 8:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO


    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  2. What to watch this week: Fall TV kicks off with 'Will & Grace,' 'Young Sheldon,' return of 'This Is Us'


    September temperatures are still creeping into the 90s, but fall officially started a few days ago. And with that designation comes the avalanche of new and returning TV shows. The Big Bang Theory fans get a double dose of Sheldon Cooper's nerdisms with the return of the titular series for an eleventh season and …

    Sean Hayes, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally in Will & Grace.
  3. Eight refueling jets from Arkansas, 250 people heading to new home at MacDill


    TAMPA — The number of KC-135 refueling jets at MacDill Air Force Base will grow from 18 to 24 with the return of a squadron that once called Tampa home.

    A KC-135 Stratotanker, a military aerial refueling jet, undergoes maintenance at MacDill Air Force Base. The planes, many flying since the late 1950s, are now being flown more than twice as much as scheduled because of ongoing foreign conflicts. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Bucs couldn't connect on or stop deep passes in loss to Vikings


    If two things were established as storylines entering Sunday's Bucs-Vikings game, it was that Tampa Bay was still struggling to establish the deep passes that were missing from its offense last year, and that …

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) gets into the end zone for a long touchdown reception as Bucs free safety Chris Conte (23) cannot stop him during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Alejandro Villanueva, Steelers player and Army vet who stood alone, now has the NFL's top-selling jersey


    CHICAGO — When the national anthem started at Soldier Field on Sunday, the visiting sideline was mostly empty. The most prominent evidence of the Pittsburgh Steelers was offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, standing all by himself near the tunnel, holding his right hand over his heart.

    Alejandro Villanueva stands alone during the national anthem at Soldier Field in Chicago. [Associated Press]