THE FIRST JROTC UNIT
A Short History of JROTC
The United States Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) came into being with the passage of the National Defense Act of 1916. Under the provisions of the Act, high schools were authorized the loan of federal military equipment and the assignment of active duty military personnel as instructors. In 1964, the Vitalization Act opened JROTC up to the other services and replaced most of the active duty instructors with retirees who worked for and were cost shared by the schools.
Title 10 of the U.S. Code declares that "the purpose of Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps is to instill in students in United States secondary educational institutions the value of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment."
JROTC is NOT a recruiting tool. Military service is not a requirement and students are not given favor if they do pursue a military career; although a large percentage of cadets do go on to careers in the military.
JROTC’s mission is “To motivate young people to be better citizens.”
The study of ethics, citizenship, communications, leadership, life skills and other subjects designed to prepare young men and women to take their place in adult society is core to the program.
“The First In The Nation”
Leavenworth High School, Leavenworth, Kansas, claims the distinction of having the first official JROTC program in the United States. The school's official JROTC program has been in existence since Jan. 29, 1917; however, it had a military science and tactics program as far back as 1896.
Sometime in 1896, 30 students visited the commanding general of Fort Leavenworth. The purpose of their meeting was to request that an officer from the fort come to the high school and teach military subjects. In response to their request, Captain Houston was detailed to train the students for one hour each morning, five days a week. The students drilled in a hallway with broomsticks instead of rifles.
In the years before Leavenworth High School became an official JROTC unit, many events transpired. The unit was disbanded and reorganized, the first cadet hop was held, a week-long hike/campout became an annual event, and medals were presented for the best-drilled individual. The first rifles were purchased and the cadets chipped in and bought their own uniforms. The uniform consisted of a blue coat with a high military collar and blue trousers with a black stripe down the side.
On Jan. 13, 1917, Special Order Number 11 appointed Lt. Col. Ezra B. Fuller as the PMS&T at Leavenworth Senior High School. On Jan. 29, 1917, Bulletin Number six named Leavenworth Senior High to have the first official JROTC unit in the United States.
With the outbreak of World War I, Bulletin Number 56, Oct. 10, 1917, discontinued the JROTC unit. It is not entirely clear why this happened, although the 1928 yearbook stated that the War Department ended all of the junior programs that had been established, probably due to wartime manpower requirements. The corps did keep running during the war, albeit unofficially. After the war, Bulletin Number 63, Dec. 29, 1919, reestablished Leavenworth High School's JROTC unit. Since that date the unit has been a permanent element at Leavenworth High.
Leavenworth High School has many firsts in the nation. In addition to having the first JROTC unit, a girl’s cadet company was started in 1912. Their uniform was a plain white dress with a long navy-blue cape lined in red. This was a very unusual unit because the Women's Army Corps wasn't established yet. The female unit lasted one year. The U.S. Army officially allowed female participation in JROTC in 1973.
For approximately 70 years, with the exception of two, Leavenworth High School's JROTC unit has been an “Honor Unit with Distinction” since the inception of that award. The special units have been a guard of honor for General Pershing and Marshall Ferdinand Foch of France on their trips through the United States. They also honored President Calvin Coolidge when he dedicated the Liberty Memorial to World War I veterans in Kansas City, Missouri.
Today the Corps of Cadets numbers more than 300 strong, giving to the community over 10,000 hours of community service annually. Many of the graduating cadet population is offered an academic or ROTC Scholarship or enlist directly into a branch of the military. The school year 2008-2009 saw 21 cadets graduate with ROTC scholarships and three service academy appointments.
Leavenworth High School’s Army JROTC “Pioneer Battalion" boasts thirteen special teams; an Armed Honor Guard (male); Unarmed Honor Guard (female); Color Guard; Junior Guard; Drum and Bugle Corps; Saber Team; Raider Team; Rifle Team; Academic Team; Leadership Team; Cannon Crew and a Cadet Chorus.
The JROTC Color Guard is regionally renowned; conducting over 80 color guard events annually at the request of community organizations, military units, military associations on and off post, agencies, churches and other groups that host social functions in the Kansas City area – on both sides of the river. They have been requested to present the colors at select games for all major league and college teams in the Kansas City and surrounding areas.
The Armed and Unarmed Honor Guards compete annually at regional drill meets, usually taking home trophies at each competition – many times first place. This year both teams are representing the school and the community at the U.S. Army Drill Team Championships at Louisville, KY during the month of March and the National All Services High School Drill Team Championships held in Daytona Beach, Florida during the month of May.
The Drum and Bugle Corps was originally the school marching band. Its existence continues today. Playing military music and marching in Revolutionary era uniforms the Drum and Bugle Corps leads the Corps of Cadets during the Leavenworth Veteran’s Day Parade. They also play and march at many elementary and middle school assemblies, regional events, and other local parades.
The Junior Guard is a branch of the Leavenworth High School JROTC program that organizes JROTC citizenship training and drill events at eight local elementary and middle schools, within Leavenworth and Fort Leavenworth. JROTC cadets that have been selected as Junior Guard leaders travel weekly to local elementary and middle schools to train and mentor 5th through 8th graders in such things as drill, JROTC knowledge, citizenship skills and other basic JROTC training topics. Leavenworth High School also hosts an annual Junior Guard Drill Meet. The Junior Guard Drill Meet is an opportunity for all schools with Junior Guard programs to compete in a drill competition. Events include Individual Drill, Knowledge Testing, presenting the Colors, posting the Colors, Unarmed Drill, and Armed Drill. An important note: Armed drill is conducted with wooden fabricated rifles. Many of the students in Junior Guard join JROTC when they graduate middle school.
Raider Team: In 1961, Leavenworth High School started a Ranger platoon, the first Ranger unit in the nation to be formed by a high school JROTC program. The platoon members met on weekends and went out on various missions with tactical objectives. They participated in rugged, strenuous activities. This team is now called the Raider Team and is an official special team formally recognized by Army JROTC and the United States Army Cadet Command. The team competes against other Raider Teams in outdoor adventure events. In May, 2013 the battalion, with the support of Fort Leavenworth, hosted its fifth annual Raider Meet at Leavenworth High School. The event was a huge success and received numerous accolades from attending teams.
The Saber Team conducts Drill and Ceremony with sabers, performing archways. The Saber Team is a special team reserved exclusively for those holding positions on the battalion staff. Members of the Saber Team learn ceremonial protocol for sabers. One of the most notable procedures the team learns is the “arch of sabers”, which is used for such occasions as the induction of the JROTC sponsors and to introduce the homecoming king and queen candidates at the homecoming football game.
The Cadet Chorus was formed in 1982, and sings patriotic music at many school, post, and community functions. Typically the Chorus will be utilized with a Color Guard upon request to sing the National Anthem during the presentation or posting of the Colors.
The Rifle Team is steeped in history, having won twenty-five national titles, participating in the Junior Olympics numerous times and producing national-level shooters that went on to join the United States Army Marksmanship Unit. One specific former rifle team member, Retired Army Major Steve Goff, won first place in the Pan American Games. The rifle team is equipped with Anschutz rifles of the best quality, and is comprised of two classes of shooters – precision shooters and sporter class. The team hosts and participates in numerous regional head-to-head and national-level postal meets annually, bringing home many first place team and individual trophies.