Jan 11, 2007

Anti-gay groups association with proposed high school ROTC program sours the proposal

A possible Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Howell High School is off the table because of the apparent high start up costs of establishing the program, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

It was reported the startup costs for an ROTC program are between $80,000 and $100,000, and with the looming budget crunch facing the state the expense was too great. I spent 20 years in the military, and I believe the military is a fantastic place for anyone starting out in life to pick up some maturity, valuable training and perhaps the most responsibility you will ever have in your life, short of being a parent. But a few things trouble me about this program.

First, this paragraph from the article: But Vicki Fyke, a member of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education traditional values group and an active member of the county Republican Party, held out some hope that U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, may be able to help get the ROTC program started.
She said she had contacted a member of Rogers' staff to get some help with the application process and, possibly, funding.

The so-called LOVE group is nothing but an anti-gay hate group, and their association in this immediately turns me off. Will gay students be excluded?

Second, the only real info I can find on this program is from the U.S. Army’s recruiting web site. I don’t want this to be simply a tool for recruiters to find new recruits. I know recruiters have a tough job, especially now with the misguided Iraq fiasco, but I want any program to live up to its goals of instilling the values of citizenship, service to the country and community, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment, and I don’t want the goal to be a farm system for the U.S. Army. The support or lack of support of the failed Bush policies in Iraq should have nothing to do with the decision to establish a program.

A Soldier, Sailor and Marine’s job is to serve their country and obey the orders of the Commander-in-Chief and the Congress, and it’s our job as voters and citizens to see that these brave men and women are not being placed in harm’s way needlessly.

Frankly, I’m not sure why the program would cost so much to establish. Is there full-time paid staff involved, is it taught during school hours, is there classroom instruction or is it after school? It can’t cost nearly as much as fielding an athletic team.

However, I would like to offer an alternative for the two students – but I’m sure there are many more – who expressed interest in the ROTC program. Right here in Livingston County is one of the best Civil Air Patrol squadrons in the state, the Livingston Composite Squadron.

I was once a member of the squadron – they are a composite squadron, which allows senior members and cadets – with my daughter, and I met some of the most outstanding young people I have been associated with.

The Civil Air Patrol is the all-volunteer, official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force with both senior members and cadets from age 12-21, and CAP flies 95 percent of the nation’s search and rescue missions. CAP is a private, non-profit organization, but it follows the ranks, structures and uniforms of the Air Force.

Not only does it drill and do the same things as an ROTC program, but they help the community by actually being tasked with real SAR missions, both ground searches and airborne searches with its Cessina 172. They can also be tasked in a natural disaster or other emergency, just like the National Guard, especially since most of them are in Iraq.

In the last five years the squadron has produced two cadets of the year for the Michigan Wing that overseas the 47 squadrons spread throughout the state, and one cadet was recently appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Many more go on to join the military, and the experience can earn them an extra pay grade when they enlist.
The squadron meets from 6:30 -9 p.m. every Wednesday at the Howell Armory, 725 Isbell St. in Howell.

For those young people considering joining the military, I say go for it, and you will not find a better place to begin your journey in life. But when going in to talk to a recruiter do so with your eyes open, question everything, don’t take anything at face value, get everything in writing and maybe even take your parent, guardian or someone you trust along with you.

I think perhaps the most telling part of the article is when Fyke claims Rogers offered to help with the start-up costs, which would be one of the few times we have seen a benefit to the 8th Congressional District from his representation. However, Rogers spokesperson clears up that misconception, and the only commitment from Rogers was the promise of a letter of recommendation.

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