New JROTC program trains leadersNov 07, 2023 11:04AM ● By Jet Burnham
Members of Herriman High School’s Mustang Battalion participate in a JROTC orienteering competition. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Londelius)
The Mustang Battalion at Herriman High School is the first Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program in Jordan School District. SFC (R) Konrad Wilson is the program instructor and emphasizes that, unlike college ROTC programs which focus on military recruitment, the JROTC is a leadership program.
“About 40% of our cadets pursue a military career,” he said. “The other 60% are here about the leadership, about having fun, about having a class that is not the norm, so they can get out and do different things and learn and explore different aspects. It is not designed as a recruiting tool. This is designed to motivate young people to be better citizens and let them understand that they have the ability to make changes.”
Cadets are encouraged to be involved in their local Community Emergency Response Teams and to serve in their communities.
The program is structured to be run by the students. Emerging leaders take on leadership roles and are nominated to receive awards and promotions at the end of every quarter.
Wilson said the cadets learn life skills and leadership skills such as decision making, negotiation, compromise, delegation, communication, confidence and how to work with other peoples’ personalities, weaknesses and strengths.
“You learn to be a leader and what makes a good leader,” Gary Fiedler, a sophomore in the program, said. He serves as a team lead in his class and said, because of the skills he’s learned, he handled a recent accident situation differently than he previously would have.
“Instead of being the one to freak out, I was like, ‘Hey, calm down, we’re fine, here's what we need to get done and so then let's do it,’” he said.
Sophomore David Mason said he enjoys running drills and doing physical conditioning workouts in class. Fiedler likes the problem-solving exercises.
During a bomb threat simulation the class did recently, Fiedler said they all had to rely on good communication and teamwork skills to work through the problem.
“We had to be able to communicate with each other because only the person looking at the bomb can see what’s going on, and everyone else was just looking at a piece of the information we needed,” he said.
Wilson said the structure of JROTC provides a safe environment in which cadets fail, try again and learn from their mistakes.
“We go back and we talk about everything that we do—what went well and what we can improve on—so that the next time we do it, we can make it better, we can improve on it, and that helps them grow,“ he said.
As part of the statewide JROTC program, cadets participate in skills competitions in orienteering, archery, precision marksmanship, robotics, drones, drills and physical fitness.
“The idea is to expose them to a lot of different things and sometimes they'll find that little thing that they never even knew they had an ability for and that it's fun, too,” Wilson said. “They just find out about different interests and ideas and different ways to do things.”
Senior Nancy Londelius said her JROTC experiences have had a positive influence on her life. To prepare for the orienteering competitions, she was newly motivated to resume her running routine which she had previously abandoned.
“I wanted us to win since our group was the smallest, and I wanted to better myself, so I started running a lot more,” she said. In addition to improving her physical fitness, she said the class has also helped her overcome some of her weaknesses.
“It's helped me with my personality and being able to open up more with other people and being able to become more of a leader,” she said. “Now I have to actually talk to people to get what I want. I have to communicate and I also have to tell people what to do, because I’m a team leader.”
Wilson previously taught in the JROTC program at Taylorville High School for 10 years and has seen how it can make a difference in young peoples’ lives.
“I love teaching these young adults and helping prepare them for life after high school,” Wilson said. “For me, the biggest reward is that a-ha moment when that light comes on in that cadet’s eyes of ‘I get this.’ But what's deeper than that is when those cadets come to me and say, ‘Hey, I made it because you taught me this and you had confidence in me, and I have that confidence in myself now.’”
He hopes cadets learn to do hard things and to ask for help when they need it.
The program is organized in a way that creates a close-knit group of students.
“All the cadets in here support each other and rally around each other, so it helps them build each other up,” Wilson said. “It gives them that family environment to where they feel supported, and they have that platform to build off of to be successful.”
Wilson said Herriman High Principal Todd Quarnberg has been working for several years to get the JROTC program set up. In this, its inaugural year, the program has 30 students. Wilson expects four times as many students next year as word of the opportunity spreads to other high school students in the area. Enrollment is open and students from Copper Hills and Bingham high schools are currently participating in Herriman High’s program.
Providence Hall High School, a Herriman area charter school, and Taylorsville High School also have JROTC programs. λ