Make us your home page
Instagram

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 solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

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

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.