South Tahoe Lake High Schol cadets ship off for training at Navy station |

South Tahoe Lake High Schol cadets ship off for training at Navy station

Twenty-five students, among them six girls, are expected to get a crash course in military training the day after Veterans Day Saturday.

For 10 days, the group from South Lake Tahoe High School’s NJROTC program are shipping out to join the U.S. Navy in San Diego Sunday.

The program stresses teamwork, leadership, citizenship and service. And now it can add survival training to the list, as the corps of teen-agers will spend a day with the Navy Seals, one of the most intensely trained crews in the armed forces.

The trip is sponsored by the Navy, along with another planned in December that simulates Naval operations on Lake Mead.

NJROTC Lt. Commander Matt Williams said the teens are excited by the day-in-the-life training, though it takes them from their schoolwork for over a week. That’s OK, Williams assured, as there would be plenty of time set aside for homework – too bad kids.

The trip serves as a perk for the 87 cadets signed up this year, numbers that have fallen over the last few years. The NJROTC program, which started in 1994, averages between 95 to 110, Williams noted.

“We’re supposed to be at 100,” he said. So, the focus may lie with the quality of the program, thought to be a no-pressure prep school for military service.

“We’re trying to give kids as much exposure as possible, so they can make an educated decision (about joining the military),” Williams said. “We know the military will be better off if there’s a (good) match.”

Many high schools recruit about 10 percent of the student body in NJROTC.

Incline Village High School averages 38 percent. Over 60 percent consists of incoming freshman, many seeking an alternative to a physical education class.

Lt. Col. Mike Shields tours the middle schools to field interest from the early ages. The system has prepped many students for future military service.

“Every year, we have somebody who either takes an appointment or makes a scholarship,” Shields said, adding some end up at the prestigious military school, Westpoint.

The NJROTC-to-military connection has apparently worked in this area. Despite widespread national reports of recruitment numbers dropping in the armed forces, the U.S. Marine Corps, in particular, has maintained and surpassed its goal in this district each year and month.

“We haven’t had a problem for five years,” Marine Sgt. Douglas Erickson said from his Reno office. His goal amounts to two contracts a month per recruiter. The last fiscal year ended Sept. 30 with 121 signed, 16 more than goal. This year’s goal is 125, but he’s added one more recruiter to his staff of four.

“In the past two years, this station missed its contract mission two out of 24 months,” Erickson said.

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