While U.S. military recruiting efforts are struggling, one local JROTC program is seeing more students join every year. Some students who enlist said it’s a calling, not just a program.
Joining the ROTC in high school doesn’t mean you have to enlist after graduation, but we spoke with some kids who said they want to serve their country.
U.S. military recruiting leaders said it can be difficult to get Gen-Z interested in joining the military.
However, Union School District leaders said their JROTC program is booming, with about 150 kids for the upcoming year.
Major Rick Turner said JROTC isn't a military recruiting tool, but many of their kids do enlist after graduation.
“One thing I’ve seen is that people say the military is a calling, it’s something that you know you want to do,” Turner said. “Even fourth of fifth graders we talk to say they want to go into the military, it’s a calling for them.”
U.S. Marine Corps Captain Michael Kennedy points to several factors for the recent decline nationally.
In a statement, said "Compounding effects of the COVID pandemic, reduced access to our target audience, a decline in eligible population, historic low interest in military service, perceptions of military service, media inflation, and a growing military and civilian divide have placed great stress on day-to-day recruiting operations."
But even as fewer teens make the commitment, some Union students said they are ready to join the Air Force as soon as they graduate.
“Not many in my family have gone into the military, I thought it would be great to create a path so future generations can as well and I want to change the world and make it a better place,” JROTC Cadet Maria Rodriguez said.
"I could get my pilots license, I can go into the Air Force Academy, I can get college for free, there is many benefits I get out of it,” JROTC Cadet Jacob Bradshaw said.
These cadets tsaid they are proud to be in Union's JROTC program and hope to see it continue to grow.