Marine Returns Home to Encourage JROTC Members

Drill instructors present their new Marines with Eagle, Globe and Anchors during the emblem ceremony Sept. 7, 2013, at the Iwo Jima flag raising statue on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Lance Cpl. MaryAnn Hill)
Drill instructors present their new Marines with Eagle, Globe and Anchors during the emblem ceremony Sept. 7, 2013, at the Iwo Jima flag raising statue on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Lance Cpl. MaryAnn Hill)

GLASGOW -- Marine Corps Private First Class Corey Kise is still scratching the mosquito bites he collected during 13 weeks of basic training on Parris Island, S.C.

Kise, who completed boot camp on Sept. 4, spent some time last week and Monday at his recent alma mater, Barren County High School, to speak with the cadets in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Trojan Battalion he was a member of just a few months before.

For Kise, it was important to come back and encourage those who are coming after him through the program. The benefits for Kise applied to both his new career in the military, but also provided important life lessons.

"It helped out a lot," Kise said during a phone interview as he traveled to begin Marine Combat Training at Fort Geiger, North Carolina. "I was in (JROTC) all four years. It was pretty fun and taught a lot of good things for the real world, like the seven Army values -- loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity, selfless service, personal courage."

The drilling he mastered in high school had other benefits. He entered the Marine Corps with a higher rank, and boot camp was a little easier to navigate.

"Doing drill, pretty much the Marine Corps and the Army is the same, there's just a couple little things that are different," Kise said. "But drill helped me out a lot, so I was a step ahead of everybody else at boot camp. And with (JROTC) I got go into the Marine Corps as a Private First Class instead of a Private because I had four years of (JROTC).

" ... I was there (on Parris Island) in July and August, so it was pretty hot. The sand fleas, the mosquitos really sucked, but it was good training all in all. It wasn't too bad."

Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Phil Gearlds said the Army National Guard-based program at Barren County supports all branches of the military and regularly hosts recruiters from all the services, but for the most part the kids taking part in JROTC are not destined for the military.

"Our mission statement is motivating young people to be better citizens," Gearlds said. "We are not here as instructors to recruit. We have recruiters from all the armed services that recruit, and that's their mission. Our mission is to prepare them, to get them college and career ready."

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For those who do seek to serve, the JROTC program is a solid jumping-off point. U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jeremy Caraway, a recruiter based out of Bowling Green who regularly visits Barren County, said the program helps teens learn about the military and what to expect if they do pursue a career in the armed services.

The discipline and values the JROTC instill can also go a long way toward successfully enlisting, just as it did for Kise.

"The classes that the cadre teaches here start from the very basics and work their way up, all the way from respect, integrity -- lying is a big issue that they will not tolerate here," Caraway said. "For the most part, it teaches a better class of individual. There are a lot of people in the ROTC program who are not physically, mentally or morally qualified for the military, but it's something that even if you don't get to go into the military they teach you a lot about respect, customs and courtesies, how certain things in the way you treat people can help you out in life.

"And it's not as hard of a learning curve for some of these kids as it would be when they just go out and think that the world is theirs and people owe them everything. These kids don't have that problem because that gets taken away right out of the gate."

Kise wanted to tell his former classmates at Barren County how much the JROTC helped, and to encourage them to stick with the program.

"I came back because that class was probably the best class in high school that I had," Kise said. "It helped out more than any other class, too."

Although the JROTC is more focused on teaching strong foundational values than military skills, Gearlds said he is always "tickled to death" when one of his former junior cadets chooses to serve in the armed forces.

"I think we motivated him and he took that motivation on into the Marine Corps," Gearlds said. "Hopefully it made his basic training a little easier."

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