By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Grayson JROTC...RAM Battalion
By Beth Volpert Johansen

How does a school get a JROTC program? According to 1st Sgt. Franklin Brown (ret.), you simply ask. “I was working in another school when I approached (former) Principal Hopson to ask if he was interested in having a JROTC program at Grayson,” says Brown.

“My own kids go here and I wanted to be closer to them as well as bring the program here.” That simple request got the ball rolling and in 2013, Grayson began offering the program.

grayson jrotc1190Grayson Male JROTC Raider team

Brown, along with Col. (Ret) Ron Rose, administer and teach around 180 cadets at GHS. JROTC stands for, Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. The program is split into seven curriculum areas. With a great emphasis on citizenship and leadership training, seven units are designed to provide skills instruction that are intended to engage cadets in the practice of basic citizenship customs and traditions along with the exploration of opportunities for non-military and military national service. 

Cadets train for competition in a number of areas throughout the year. There are a variety of competitions that begin in November and run through March. Designed to build self-confidence, physical fitness, leadership, and teamwork skills, RAIDER training provides a hands-on approach that develops healthy competition between other programs and schools. 

Each RAIDER team typically consists of ten members with one serving as team leader. They compete in events such as: the APFT (2-mile run, push-up, sit-up), Cross Country Rescue (first aid skills and the litter carry), knots, one-rope bridge, map reading, marksmanship, tire flip, Humvee pull, Obstacle Course, and foot marching. Typically, a Raider Competition will consist of five events. The events are conducted one after the other, so students must develop a regular exercise program to prepare well in advance for these competitions. (GHS website)

flag class1440Raising the flag at Grayson’s Lovin Elementary School

In addition to the RAIDER Teams, the Ram Rifles Drill team had an exceptional 2014 season with both the male and female Drill Teams winning the area 11 region championship. “There are 12 schools in the region, both of our teams qualified to compete at the championships,” says Brown. The male team placed in the top 5 teams out of a total of 37 teams, and the females (a first year team) was runner-up to the state champions out of 37 teams. “These cadets performed superbly throughout the season placing first or second place at every competition.” 

During the 2014 RAIDER Season, the male team placed in the top 5 teams at every competition, earning them runner up to the Region champions, Riverside Military Academy. The Female team placed first or second at every competition earning them runner up to the Region champions South Gwinnett. “The male team earned a spot to compete at the state raider championships,” says Brown. The male team placed 12th out 24 teams in the state.” 
flag class190

Grayson JROTC cadet CSM Austin Smith teaches Lovin elementary school students a flag lesson.

“So far this year the cadets are off to a fantastic start,” says Brown. The Raider teams have competed in three competitions so far with the males earning a 4th place overall, a 1st place overall and a 5th place. The females have earned 2 1st place and a 5th place overall so far. “These competitions are very tough and challenging,” says Brown. The cadets will travel to Riverside Military Academy to earn 1 of 3 slots to compete at the State Championships. The team will wrap up the season with 4 additional competitions to include the National Raider Championships which are held in Molena, GA.

grayson jrotc2190Grayson Female JROTC Raider team

All good programs have leadership, but it takes a special person to rise to the top in three short years. Throughout his school career, RAMS Battalion Cadet Major Riley Eck has planned and executed his own personal agenda for citizenship, leadership, and service. He has maintained physical fitness, managed his own work schedule, and worked his way up the chain of command to become Cadet Major and mentor to his JROTC RAMS Battalion. When asked about the program, Riley was quick to point out great leadership in both Sgt. Brown and Col. Rose. “JROTC has given me a great opportunity to improve my leadership ability,” says Riley. “It has shown me that I want to pursue a career in the Army.” For Riley, a big part of JROTC is the mission for young people to become better citizens. “We are very visible at the school,” says Riley. “Through my eyes, I see, because of our visibility, there is a little more respect at our school.” He goes on to explain their vigilance to keep an eye out for what needs to be done whether it involves picking up trash, assisting the elderly at ball games, or watching over the marching band’s personal belongings during football halftime. “I’d say, from day to day in class that JROTC is a great character building tool,” says Riley. “The increase in discipline transfers into the classroom every day.” 

Col. Ron Rose is very proud of what has happened with Grayson’s JROTC program. “What I believe makes Grayson's JROTC program so great is the students,” says Rose. “The diversity at Grayson is awesome and it reminds me of my thirty years in the Army where diversity made us strong. The leadership at Grayson is also focused on academic achievement and this helps us accomplish our mission to make better citizens.” Grayson JROTC is unique in that it receives no federal funding, all of the support comes from the community. “The key to our program’s success is teamwork,” says Rose. “With the support of our amazing parents, we continue building strong connections to our great Grayson community.” Col. Rose, Sgt. Brown and the cadets are thrilled at earning top Raider and Drill team awards each weekend. “Grayson is a great place to get an education and JROTC provides a high quality leadership development program...Our motto is ‘Ram Pride’.”

With discipline, observation, teamwork, and leadership training combined with physical and mental challenges, the GHS JROTC is having a positive effect on the entire student body. Current Principal Dana Pugh frequently comments on the positive role the JROTC plays at GHS. Their awards are proudly displayed and celebrated along with those of the fine arts and sports departments showing the well-rounded nature of GHS.