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Retired Airmen are teaching JROTC cadets

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFRNS) -- More than 1,900 Junior ROTC instructors, who teach at 869 school units worldwide, recently finished their initial instructor training here.

Jo Alice Talley, chief of JROTC instructor management at Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools, said the newly hired instructors learned about unit management and teaching skills and procedures.

Greg Winn, deputy director of Air Force JROTC, said the two weeks of instruction also are provided to change the instructor's mindset from military to a high school environment.

"An instructor's job requires a completely different focus," he said. "That's why many of the speakers we have for the initial training have doctorates in education. This helps with the mental transformation."

Mr. Winn said the mission of JROTC is not recruiting, but to build "citizens of character" for the community. He said the feedback from teachers, parents and students indicates it is, "a great program that truly makes a difference in the lives of the 105,416 cadets currently enrolled in JROTC."

For those interested in becoming an instructor now or further down the road, Ms. Talley said instructors must be retired military from any Air Force specialty with at least 20 years of active duty and have good morale character.

"We accept retired technical sergeants to chief master sergeants on the enlisted side, and captains through colonels on the officer side," she said. "Officers have to have a bachelor's degree, and enlisted members have to complete an associate's degree within five years of being hired for JROTC duty."

Ms. Talley said the fact that Airmen can come from any specialty is important because it allows anyone who is qualified to join JROTC.

Among others, she has retired chaplains, dentists and astronauts working as JROTC instructors. She said AFOATS does not have a budget for recruiting instructors, so she uses any and all military publications when possible, and the instructors themselves are great at passing the word to friends and former colleagues about the benefits of being an instructor.

She said she is always looking for female and minority members to be instructors because these are the two fastest growing groups of JROTC cadets. Ms. Talley said minorities currently comprise 53 percent of JROTC students, and females comprise 43 percent of the cadets, but only 5 percent of the instructors are female.

She said all instructors actually work for the school system in the areas where they teach, and a member's retirement pay is supplemented by the local school board or district. With the retirement pay, the amount an instructor is paid is the same sum the member would receive if on active duty.

Ms. Talley said the rule of thumb is that a person has to join the JROTC ranks within five years of retirement, but waivers can be arranged for up to 10 years after retirement. Air National Guard and Reserve members can now participate in the program.

She said before a change in the law governing JROTC occurred last October, it was impossible to figure a base salary because Guard and Reserve members were not eligible for retirement pay until they were 60 years old.

She also stressed there is no age limit regarding JROTC instructors.

Mr. Winn said the JROTC program has been in operation since 1966, when it opened at 20 schools.

He said today, 48 states and Department of Defense schools in nine foreign countries are involved in the program. Only Idaho and Montana do not participate because of the small size of the high schools in those states.

Mr. Winn said the program maintains a "fill rate" of between 96 and 97 percent for instructor positions, but that still leaves 50 to 60 vacancies for both retired enlisted members and retired officers. Anyone interested in becoming involved in JROTC should call Ms. Talley at (866) 235-7682, Ext. 7742, or e-mail her at junior.rotc@maxwell.af.mil.

The AFOATS Web site at www.afoats.af.mil has a link to access the AFJROTC page.

"There is a really great video on the Web, done by Air University Television, that really tells the JROTC story," Ms. Talley said. (Courtesy of Air Force Print News)