While most high school students are dreaming of spending lazy days by the pool this summer, a few local students are preparing for the rigors of boot camp. Ryan Davis, a junior at Grain Valley High School and member of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC), is completing basic training this summer at Fort Leonard Wood. “I enlisted in the Missouri Army National Guard on January 2, 2019. I enlisted as a 13B Combat Engineer. I will attend basic training this summer between my junior and senior year of high school. BCT (Basic Combat Training) is the first training all solders go through after enlisting,” Davis said. Davis credits his sister Kaitlyn Helm with influencing him to consider joining the JROTC program. “My sister has been a big influence in my life. She was in the Blue Springs/Grain Valley JROTC program during high school and encouraged me to do the same.” The Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFJROTC) program operates units in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, and Guam. AFJROTC units are located within host high schools and instructors are employees of the host school. Lt. Col. Richard Yule instructs JROTC students at Blue Springs South High School, where around 40 cadets from Grain Valley participate. Yule has led the program for 8 years and has seen the benefits the program brings to his students. “We look to instill the Air Force core values into each cadet. These consist of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All You Do. We believe that what cadets accomplish and the leadership skills they develop through their years in AFJROTC will look good on resumes for jobs, on scholarship applications for college, or will aid them in any pursuit after high school,” Yule said. “It is important to note that JROTC programs are not recruitment programs and cadets have no military obligations. But we certainly have good relationships with the local Active Duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard recruiters. When cadets show interest in the military, we suggest they speak to the recruiters for the latest in job availability and benefits. Typically, taking JROTC for 3 or 4 years offers an increase in rank and pay after basic training.” Cadet Airman Ryley Thompson joined JROTC “part of something bigger than myself and have an opportunity to serve my community.” Thompson emphasized the program is not just for those students who are intent on a career in the military. “This program is a great opportunity for cadets to find their true path. It might not be military related and that is okay. This program teaches its cadets some important life skills, such as public speaking and the confidence to successfully lead a group of individuals,” Thompson said. Thompson, a freshman at Grain Valley High School, recently received recognition as Outstanding Cadet for his grade level. JROTC cadets participate in community service, compete in drill and color guard competitions, and learn about aerospace. “Since the class is held in Blue Springs South High School, the best part is meeting and building relationships with other cadets from Blue Springs, as well as the activities, trips, and confidence we gain in ourselves. The worst part is during drill season when we are at the school for practice at 6:00am. But even that’s not too bad,” Davis said. Junior Candace Jennings has participated in JROTC for three years and credits the program with teaching her how to adapt in tough situations. “I’ve learned a lot, but particularly this year I was a commander of one of our flights and worked a bit with commanding for our color guard, which presents the colors at football games, and events like Royals games. The biggest thing I’ve learned is not everything goes the way you think it will, but the biggest thing is how well you adapt and make sure everything still goes right,” Jennings said. Jennings plans to sign with the military shortly but will wait until after graduation to go through basic training. “When my training is over, I plan to go to a college nearby and join the full ROTC there so I can try to commission as an officer in the future.” “We've had a successful year. While weather impacted some of our competitive drill competitions, we did bring home several first-place trophies with some of those routines led by Grain Valley cadets. Around the Kansas City area, our cadets performed over 1500 hours of community service. We are most visible in Grain Valley presenting the colors before each varsity football game and during our fall and spring road clean-ups along SW Eagles Parkway,” Yule said. For more information on the Blue Springs South Air Force JROTC program, visit their website at https://bssafjrotc.wordpress.com/.
Cadet Airman Ryley Thompson (above) recently received recognition as Outstanding Cadet for his grade level. Photo credit: Aimee Thompson. Below, JROTC color guard presenting the colors at a Kansas City Royals game. Photo courtesy of Candace Jennings.
Junior Candace Jennings, pictured with her father Roger Jennings. Photo courtesy of Candace Jennings.