JROTC provides life skills

Midshipman third class Elizabeth Twohig, left, and airman first class Kaylee Patterson speak with students at Loudon High School.

Loudon High School graduates Elizabeth Twohig and Kaylee Patterson visited the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps classroom at LHS on Thursday to share with students their experiences.

Twohig is a midshipman third class at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., while Patterson is an airman first class and stationed in Knoxville with the Air National Guard.

“She has an enlisted person’s point of view, whereas I have an officer’s point, or a new potential officer, once I graduate,” Twohig said.

“We’re not trying to recruit them or anything, we’re just trying to tell them about, ‘This is our experience through high school and this is where we are now’.” Patterson added.

JROTC welcomes back graduates each year.

“I think it lets them know what the military does, and it makes them better citizens, too, when they go out and vote for things and when somebody’s going, ‘Well, we need this to support our defense,’ and I think that is one of the reasons we bring them back is not only if you don’t go in, at least you’re going to know what the services do,” Maj. Belinda Twohig, with JROTC, said. “You’ve got kids that were in the same — and that’s what they started off is, ‘We were in the same seats that you’re sitting in right now,’ and making them better informed citizens as to what the military does. ... Honestly, if they’re thinking about the academy they need to start freshman year.”

For some students, a military career is not in their future. Belinda Twohig believes that’s fine, noting the program still has value for life.

“The self-discipline that we instill,” Master Sgt. David Dukes, with JROTC, said. “We teach really a lot of things, but it boils down to life skills. Going to that class at 8 o’clock when you don’t feel like it, or showing up at work when you don’t feel good to go work, you just keep showing up. Giving them that drive and work ethic basically.”

Jasmine Turner, LHS junior and JROTC platoon commander, said the program has helped her prepare for life in the military.

“It’s definitely taught me to be a better leader, better person,” she said. “I used to be super energetic and outrageous and now I’m a little more calmed down. It’s also a great distraction from school.”

Selena Smith, LHS senior, said being on the JROTC drill team has been beneficial.

“It’s taught me a lot of self-confidence because I used to be a very shy person,” she said. “I used to be so introverted. This has taught me how to speak louder. I have better confidence in myself and I have better etiquette.”