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Students in ROTC Aiming High

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FAYETTEVILLE — Classes, extra curricular activities, sports -- students are sure busy these days! But those are just school activities.

Some students get involved in programs that help them "aim high" for a career. Like ROTC. The program's fans say it is valuable for students and the Air Force.

Monday, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force visitedE.E. Smith High School. With recruitment off-track for the first time in 20 years, she says the place to look is Junior ROTC.

The Air Force wishes they could say recruitment is skyrocketing, but that is not the case. What used to be the service of choice is now struggling with the rest of the military to find new members.

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force and Clinton native Ruby DeMesme says although Junior ROTC is a citizenship program, it is a great place to look for future airmen.

"All the qualities are there," she said. "We live by values of integrity, service, and they can do those things. They're getting that in ROTC. We'd like to see it manifested in a career."

DeMesme visited E.E. Smith to tell ROTC students to aim high. Senior Julius McKinney plans to enlist in June.

"I learned discipline is a very good thing and if you learn discipline you can achieve anything, through bad times and good times," McKinney said.

Nationally, only 10 percent or so of Air Force Junior ROTC students will become active duty Air Force. Fourteen percent, including McKinney, will choose other branches. That is why for the first time in history the Air Force is launching a major recruiting campaign.

Recruiters, competing with a strong economy, say that is welcome news.

"Make sure local students are aware of what we can offer them as far as career goes when they graduate from school," said Air Force recruiter Lara Shaw.

DeMesme, who is the civilian equivalent of a four-star general, admits the Air Force has not done well in recruitment and retention. She says the Air Force must continue to build on quality of life initiatives.


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