AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Tascosa, Caprock, and Palo Duro High School share one thing in common, they all have JROTC programs, covering the branches of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, and in doing so, they are teaching high school students the skills they need when it comes to the future.
The oldest JROTC in Amarillo is Tascosa’s which started in 1969 and according to Major Diego Barela, the senior naval science instructor at Tascosa, it is also one of the oldest JROTC units in the state of Texas.
Caprock’s Marine Corps JROTC program was started in May of 1971, and then Palo Duro High School’s Air Force JROTC unit was started in 1994 and was the sixth unit established in 1994, hence the call sign for the program of TX-946.
Since their inception, the three JROTC units in Amarillo ISD have strived to instill in students a sense of leadership, discipline, and responsibility.
“It’s a program where we build citizens and we are helping people with life skills, but if you choose to go into the military, whether you want to go enlisted or officer. We have different officer scholarship programs that we can help the students attain. It is a stepping stone to the military in a sense. We are not a military recruiting program, but if they come through here and they do enter the military it does assist them in moving up a little bit faster,” said Maj. Barela.
Master Sgt. Jonathan Scott with the Marnie Corps JROTC at Caprock said the skills students learn in the program will benefit them for the rest of their careers and lives.
One person who can attest to that statement is former cadet and veteran, Alvaro Romero who is now a world geography teacher at Amarillo High School.
“I definitely use a lot of leadership education that I learned in ROTC. That is something that is available to students that really want it and it really focuses on building up character traits and citizenship and I think I use that every day of my life in every aspect,” said Romero.
Romero attended Caprock High School and was in the MCJORTC program all four years and after high school, Romero joined the Marnie Corps where he became an aviation ordnance technician, who maintain rockets, explosives, and bullets on attack helicopters.
Master Sgt. Scott said for those who do want to enter the military after high school, the program has that covered.
“If they do at least two years in JROTC, they will get a promotion after they graduate boot camp whatever service they go into. This program prepares them not only mentally, physically, but also academically,” said Master Sgt. Scott.
Most aspects of the JROTC programs are student-led, meaning students are relying on one another and helping each other to reach a goal.
“A lot of students, when we are that age, we don’t know what we are capable of. We don’t know what real life looks like. We got an idea. But we don’t necessarily know what that looks like, so having the instructors lead that, it kind of keeps it more like a classroom lesson, to where the instructor can be like here is all your pieces, you figure out your problem and a solution and let me know when you have a team formulated to complete it and walk away and they come up and you see their eyes get big like I did this and your like yes, yes you did,” said Master Sgt. Marvin Bettag, the aerospace science instructor at Palo Duro High School AFJROTC.
Additionally, Master Sgt. Bettag is a Palo Duro graduate himself and was one of the first cadets in the JROTC program at PDHS and was the only four-year graduate of the program when it started.
Also each JROTC program does community service and volunteer work, logging in thousands of hours helping out various organizations and non-profits in the area.