Push-ups, side straddle hops, grunts and shouts of “yes sir” can be seen and heard on Thursdays in the west wing of Putnam City West High School as U.S. Army Junior ROTC cadets carry out their weekly exercise regimen.
The school's inaugural class of about 70 cadets undergoes rigorous physical training as part of a schedule that includes classroom instruction, drill practice and dress uniform inspections. Cadets wear their uniforms on Wednesdays.
The ROTC curriculum was introduced at Putnam City West in the fall with about 150 students signing up. This semester, about 70 students, including eight girls, remain in the program.
Putnam City schools spokesman Steve Lindley said Junior ROTC was launched at the instigation of Superintendent Paul Hurst. It has been so well received that school officials are considering a U.S. Air Force Junior ROTC in the fall at Putnam City High School.
Principal Buster Meeks said the emphasis on discipline and structure provides a good foundation for those enrolled in the program.
“We want to help these students attain skills for after high school, and give them a leg up on succeeding,” Meeks said. “A lot of kids have really embraced what ROTC is. It's not for every student, but for some, this is meeting their needs.”
Retired Lt. Col. John McKinney is the senior Army instructor for the program. He said the goal is not to influence students to join the military after high school, but to help them become better citizens. Attendance, academics and behavior are emphasized, he said.
Students are under no military obligation after completing the program. Some will go on to enroll in college ROTC.
On March 1, the program became an official Army Junior ROTC, with the U.S. Army sharing costs of the program with the school system, McKinney said.
An area at the west end of the high school was renovated to house the program. The space includes classrooms, offices, a cadet staff room, a supply room and a firing range for pellet rifles.
McKinney, who came to the assignment after serving as an ROTC instructor at the University of Iowa and at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, had a 33-year active-duty career with the Army, including an assignment as coordinator of military support in Oklahoma City after the 1995 Murrah Building bombing.
U.S. Army Junior ROTC Cadet Creed
I am an Army Junior ROTC Cadet.
I will always conduct myself to bring credit to my family, country, school and the Corps of Cadets.
I am loyal and patriotic.
I am the future of the United States of America.
I do not lie, cheat or steal and will always be accountable for my actions and deeds.
I will always practice good citizenship and patriotism.
I will work hard to improve my mind and strengthen my body.
I will seek the mantle of leadership and stand prepared to uphold the Constitution and the American way of life.
May God grant me the strength to always live by this creed.
For more information about U.S. Army Junior ROTC program, go to www.