The JROTC program appeals to students for various reasons. Whether they signed up for JROTC because they knew from a young age that they dreamed of joining the military or they simply wanted to be a part of something, Cedar Cliff alumni Damian Moore, Ben Gelnett, and Frank Torres, who all graduated in 2016, all ended up spending multiple years in the same place.
When Moore and Torres entered the JROTC program, they had a general idea of what they wanted their post-high school track to be. Moore said, “I always wanted to enlist, but I didn’t know really what exactly I wanted to do until I graduated.” Torres’ goals were a bit more specific. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot for the air force.” As for Gelnett, he was not quite sure.
By the time Moore graduated, he was a captain in the JROTC program. “JROTC was one of the best things to happen to me in high school.” Moore said he met his best friends and had a lot of fun during those years. “Also, the Colonel and Sergeant Benton were there for me when I had some bad things going on.”
As for Gelnett, he graduated as a major. He said about JROTC, “It was fun. There were lots of early mornings.” Gelnett said he also met good friends there. “And I grew up a bit. There were lots of community events I got to participate in that I would not have if it was not for JROTC.”
For Torres, who graduated as a command sergeant major (CSM), his thoughts on his time in JROTC varied from those of Moore and Gelnett. He said, “I was eager to leave and experience the actual military.”
Looking back on their time in JROTC, each alumni took similar, yet different, lessons away from the program. Torres, who took away map reading skills, said, “It has helped me a lot as an infantryman. Land navigation is crucial.”
Gelnett said he benefited from other aspects. “The program gave me self-confidence and people skills. It made me physically fit, and it made me want to help people succeed in goals.”
Moore said JROTC helped him become more assertive. “When it comes to impacting my life, it helped me mature and not be afraid to take charge.”
Post JROTC, Moore enjoyed his summer after senior year before heading off to basic training for the army. He learned what he wanted to do, as the army is helping him to accomplish that, and is currently working for Battalion S-6 for 2-77FA in Colorado. He is waiting to be deployed to Afghanistan in February.
Torres’ plans were to join the marines and become an infantry man, as that is what he went on to do. He is currently an automatic rifleman in a fleet anti-security team (FAST) platoon with Alpha company fifth platoon stationed in Japan.
Meanwhile, Gelnett’s plans post JROTC were to go to college in Japan, as he was unable to join the marines, but he ultimately ended up in the navy. He has been in the navy for a year, and completed 10 months between two schools for IT (Information Systems Technology). He will be going overseas to the Middle East for two to three years, depending on the extension.
Debating the pros and cons of their current positions, Gelnett said, “The pros are that there are a lot of cool people and having a skillset that I didn’t have to go into debt for. Having every option out there open for me if I decide to go for it is another. The cons are being away from home, some of the people, long hours, and uncomfortable situations.”
Moore described being in the army as a love-hate relationship. “You love the people you work with, plus all the benefits from it, like getting paid while getting an education and experience, but the army will not always be in your favor.” Between Gelnett and Moore, neither of them would change anything they have done since join the JROTC program.
As for Torres, he said, “What I learn is exciting, and there are benefits, such as the G.I. bill for college. I also get to travel and see different places and countries, like I am in Japan right now.” Torres also shared that nobody understands what they experience, being far away from home and missing important things in life, such as birthdays and holidays. “You do not have as much freedom, anymore, and we go through hard scenarios in bad conditions. I do enjoy it, but it is not what I expected.” If Torres could do anything differently, he said, “I would probably not join, personally.”
Being in the military, these alumni have advice for the current JROTC cadets. Moore advises, “If you’re in JROTC and want to go enlisted, don’t act like you’re better, because you’re not. You won’t know anything more than the other guy, and you all will mess up. The only thing is you will get a pay jump.”
Torres said people should base their choices on their own thoughts. “Do what you feel like is worth doing, not what others think and say, or you won’t be living your own life.”
Gelnett offers philosophical and practical advice. “There’s always a way if you just keep pushing for success. Also, call Colonel Sir. That’s how you get on his good side.”