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A closer look at Navy JROTC

Turlock High’s Chief Petty Officer Gordon McLaughlin

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A closer look at Navy JROTC

Turlock High’s Chief Petty Officer Gordon McLaughlin.

JONATHAN MCCORKELL/The 209


POSTED March 24, 2012 1:25 a.m.

Q: What is the role of NJROTC at Turlock High School?

A: “The role here is to assist the core classes and graduation of our students. Our primary mission is to create better citizens; we are not recruiters.”

Q: What are some of the methods NJROTC uses to help develop better citizens?

A: “Understanding their role in shaping them from teenagers to young adults. By focusing them and creating goal-oriented scenarios. We help them to succeed when many of the kids have never succeeded in anything.

“For those kids who are used to succeeding and never failing at anything, it is our job to humble them so they will be better prepared in life for when they do fail. We bring out the best in individuals, we’re not trying to mold everyone into the same shape, but we are trying to mold them for their future.

“It doesn’t matter if they want to go to the Peace Corps or the Marine Corps, we just want them to be the best at it and represent themselves, their community and their school.”

Q: What are some of the physical fitness requirements for NJROTC?

A: “If you can perform physical activity in P.E. then you can perform our physical fitness activities. There are no excessive physical requirements.”

Q: Are NJROTC students held to a higher standard academically?

A: “Yes. In most cases we closely monitor the cadets’ grades. So much so that we will sometimes notify parents before they are even aware their student is having problems. We have a homework hangout where students can go after school on a weekly basis for three hours. We offer one-on-one peer tutoring. We are starting to see kids outside NJROTC who are coming to this because it is so effective.

“These kids who are doing a little better in a certain subject want to help their fellow student keep their grades up so they can attend events. We hold all of our kids to a higher standard in academics and citizenship. If we see tardies, cuts, behavior problems, we always find a way to hold them accountable. Behavior in other classes will affect a kid’s grade in here.”

Q: What are some common misconceptions about NJROTC?

A: “That we are a recruiting tool — which we are not. Another misconception is that cadets have to wear their uniforms all the time. Also, that instructors are always yelling at the kids. One of the biggest is that the kids are nerds. That if you’re not real smart or athletic or if you don’t fit in anywhere else you come here. That’s not true. NJROTC is a snapshot of the entire student population at Turlock High School. We have athletes — soccer, baseball and football players, wrestlers and even cheerleaders. We have high academic achievers and normal and low achievers.

“The kids who have low self-esteem but who want to perform but may have never had the chance to shine for whatever reason. We give them an opportunity where it is equal ground by putting them in a uniform. We have a culturally diverse group of kids and we are gender neutral, we are not color-based. Everyone is the same here — you’re not a guy, you’re not a girl, or short or fat or skinny or black, white, green or blue. Achievement is based on rank here.”

Q: How is success measured in NJROTC?

A: “There are three ways to measure success here. A numerical measurement based on how the unit performed in certain things. That score goes up to the admiral and to Congress, we never see the score. The second measure is the number of students that graduate, that have their future path chosen — if they are going to work, to college or to the military.

“The last measure is kind of a personal measure. Instructors look at where will the kids end up in four years after high school. That’s the big thing. In four years you can take a snapshot of the kids when they graduate and then in four years they are all successful citizens. By successful I mean they are actively involved in something positive to improve their lives. Job or school — you don’t want someone four years later not doing anything and living on mom’s couch.”



— JONATHAN McCORKELL
209 staff reporter

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