An education in service: Inside Wando Air Force JROTC

  • Saturday, June 7, 2014

“I made JROTC my home, my group of comrades for my time at Wando and I can’t deny having enjoyed that decision. I have made many friends through the program,” wrote Cadet Major Lebron. PROVIDED

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Whenever someone goes into high school, it represents a large step in their life development. The move from middle school to high school can never be called easy, especially in the case of new Wando students. The school has more than 3,000 students and this can be overwhelming for anyone. It is recommended that students be part of an extracurricular that will hold them through all four of their years at the school. This gives them a group of friends for their high school career. I made JROTC my home, my group of comrades for my time at Wando and I can’t deny having enjoyed that decision. I have made many friends through the program.

Many of them will be fine officers in the future. Some names off the top my head are Scott Schiller (going into the Air Force via the Clemson ROTC), Kenneth Cuming (going into the Army via ROTC at The Citadel), Wyatt Boyd and Robert Sparano who are both going to West Point. I am proud of all my friends and fellow cadets for their amazing accomplishments of just getting into these schools. For my own plans, I have been accepted to the University of South Carolina and intend to participate in their Navy ROTC and join the Navy afterwards.

Me and my fellow senior cadets are unique among high school seniors at the school. We have responsibilities that other students simply will never have in their lives.

Each year in the program, cadets may apply for unit jobs. There are professional interviews and cadets must also compile their own resumes. The cadets are then selected for a position that will give them the best leadership experience. It is never about who can do the job better. It is always about what experience someone can glean from that position. After all, JROTC is a leadership laboratory. Any mistakes a cadet makes here can be absorbed easily, while a similar mistake in the real world would ruin your career. It is experiences like this that give graduated JROTC cadets an edge in the modern professional economy. As a logistical squadron commander, flight commander and color commander, I have had many experiences to share with my fellow cadets and these experiences I will carry with for the rest of my life.

It would be impossible for me to talk of our unit without talking about our instructors, each of whom has affected my life in a positive fashion at some point or another. Major John Farese is the commanding instructor of our program. In all four of my years in the program, he has only ever taken two sick days. If this doesn’t prove to you how much he cares, I have never witnessed him not leading by example. He will never ask of you anything he can’t do himself. He flew B-52 bombers during his Air Force career and left the Air Force after teaching student pilots. In the unit, he is never referred to by name, only as Major.

Chief Master Sergeant David Costa is what I would call an interesting person. He always finds the silver lining or sometimes the root of problems. He is the oldest and wisest of the instructors. It is our unit’s tradition to simply call him Chief. He worked as aircrew maintenance on all types of aircraft during his service and retired with the highest enlisted rank. He is only known to cadets as Chief.

Master Sergeant Michael Gardner is a constant flurry of activity. He worked as a physiatrist in the Air Force during his service, and, unlike Major or Chief, goes by his full title, Master Sergeant Gardner. He does practically all of the unit’s logistics, from ranks and ribbons to supply inventory, which are the most arduous tasks in the unit by far. He never stops taking classes at Trident Tech, never stops improving our unit, and most importantly, never stops caring about the cadets.

Master Sergeant Nicole Bishop is the only female instructor in our unit. She worked in finance departments during her Air Force career and is always referred to by her full title. She is the tough, loving mother of our unit and has never let a problem last longer than a few minutes without proposing some sort of solution. She is the ultimate in common sense.

As for me, until I leave for college, I will continue to hoist the flag every day before school and lower it after school. Now, it was not initially my responsibility to raise or lower the flag during school. I just noticed during the first day of my senior year that it was halfway through my first period and the colors were not flying. So, I made it my own personal goal to service the colors every day. It is a time-honored tradition at American military instillations all over the globe. The cadets love to participate and also get a lot of experience out of conducting their duties. I love to spend time with the colors and the cadets. I leave it to next year’s cadets to keep up the tradition.

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