Connellsville junior ROTC program a training ground
They are young, full of energy and express enthusiasm.
The 132 students in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Connellsville Area Senior High School are not required to join the military, but some already are in the Reserves, and others are planning careers serving their country.
Katie Bailey, a senior and lieutenant colonel in Connellsville's Falcon Battalion, plans to join the Marine Corps and hopes to be an officer. She said the Junior ROTC program has taught her leadership, and she has found another benefit.
“I'm more outgoing,” said Bailey, adding that the program is a “new deal” at the school.
Bailey's said her grandfather served in the Navy. She was not sure when he served. He died several years ago.
Senior Colt Miller is the program's command sergeant major. He is in the Army Reserves and plans to go to college.
His grandfather, who died about 10 years ago, was the first sergeant in the Connellsville National Guard unit.
Bailey said students in the program benefit from the training, even if they do not go into the military.
“It's a great course,” Miller said. “It really can change a person if they have a difficult home life or are in trouble in school. (The program) is more to make you a better person. It teaches you to respect the American way of life.”
Tim Hensel, a senior and a major in the Falcon Battalion, has been through basic training with the Reserves. He plans to be a combat medic and wants to become an officer.
“I haven't decided on a career (after the military),” Hensel said. “I've definitely thought about becoming a doctor.”
Hensel, like Bailey and Miller, praised retired Army Col. Ulysses Winn and retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joseph Cordier, the instructors for the program at the school.
“We couldn't have better instructors,” Hensel said.
Bailey, Hensel and Miller have been in the program since it started at Connellsville two years ago.
Hensel said the first level teaches students about the basics of the uniform and how to address soldiers of various ranks, as well as basic training in marching.
Levels 2, 3 and 4 are more detailed.
All three are at level 2. Students just entering as sophomores will be given the more detailed levels of instruction.
The students recently were given their ranks, which were decided by Winn and Cordier and included feedback from the students.
Cordier said he entered the Army in 1976 as an enlisted man, rising to the rank of staff sergeant before undergoing training as a warrant officer.
He was stationed at Fort Dix following basic training, then served at posts from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., to Alaska, California, Texas and Korea. He attended a military school and trained in military intelligence.
Cordier retired from active duty in 1996 and came to the Pittsburgh area when he became involved in the Junior ROTC program. He has been posted to Oliver High in Pittsburgh, Clairton and then to schools in the Harrisburg area and in Maryland.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3538 or firstname.lastname@example.org.