JROTC offers mix of opportunities for life and military leadership skills

Every weekday, junior Connor Galloway’s alarm rings at 7 a.m. and his day begins as a cadet. Instead of driving to Cedar Falls High School, Galloway drives a town over to Waterloo East High School for his first two periods of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC). 

Waterloo East has offered JROTC since 1996 and is one of the four schools in Iowa that offers this program at the high school level. The program currently has 83 cadets.

 “I joined because of my future in the military. I want to go into the Navy for four years and then get my college paid for. My mom and my dad have both been in the Navy, so they influenced me,” Galloway said. “Going into the military just seems right for me.” 

In JROTC, the cadets’ week varies in and out of the classroom. At midweek, cadets wear military uniforms and get tested on their marching skills. “We practice our marching and get in our uniforms on Wednesdays, which is when we have uniform testing, and I wear an East uniform,” he said.  

 Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Glen Keith has taken over the program for the past year and started to teach, determined to build interactions with high schoolers. 

“My last assignment in the Army was Professor of Military Science at UNI. I ran the ROTC program. Our cadets often supported leadership activities at the JROTC program at East,” he said. “As I approached retirement from the Army, I wanted to continue coaching, teaching and leadership development, much like I was doing at the university level,” Keith said.  

Fridays are set for the hard work. “Friday we have military warm-ups and shoot airsoft rifles. They taught us how to shoot them at JROTC,”  Galloway said. 

The students learn through volunteering experiences in the communities of Black Hawk County using the military leadership development model. 

“Our students plan, organize and conduct service learning projects throughout the community, and other hands-on activities. Last year our Cadets conducted over 1,500 service hours in the community, Keith said. “JROTC Cadets have higher GPAs and graduation rates than the national average. Cadets graduate with confidence, communication skills, organizational skills and leadership traits that are unmatched by many of their peers,” he said. 

“We volunteered for Heart of Darkness haunted house, and I volunteered for the Cattle Congress and helped to pick up the rodeo there,” Galloway said.  

Although not every student that joins JROTC has a career in the military, the ones on the same path as Galloway gain benefits after the course. “Normally, when you go into the military bootcamp you start off as E-1, and if you do a year or two of ROTC, you can go right into E-2, which is higher pay,” he said.  

JROTC’s goal is to prepare students for their futures with leadership skills and for the military. 

“I feel like when I join the Navy I will know how to do a lot of the things and will know what to do instead of being yelled at and have to do push-ups,” Galloway said.  

Galloway doesn’t know if he will ever be a highly ranked officer in the military, but said he is glad to have the opportunity of starting somewhere. 

“Nationally only 14 percent go into the military. Our top two cadets last year did not join the military, but they did get full ride scholarships to college,” Keith said. 

“I feel like I am moving a little too fast. High school is breezing by, and before I know it I am going to be starting a new chapter,” Galloway said.

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