Greenville ROTC program alive and well

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 17, 2004

For almost 40 years the Greenville High School ROTC program has been shaping young people for successful careers in the military and in civilian life.

Thousands of young men and women have passed through the program since 1968 when it began.

While the location of the school has changed the program has been there to make the move each and every time. The ROTC has rolled through the good times and pressed through the bad. There have been many changes in Greenville High School over the years, but one thing has remained the same. The ROTC program has always been there for students in need of direction.

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There are no exact figures on just how many students have gone through the program over the years, but it is well into the thousands. Each year a new crop of students flood the halls of the high school and most are eager for a program to give them direction. Col. Eustice Shiver said that is where the ROTC program kicks in.

&uot;A lot of these students need somewhere to belong,&uot; said Shiver. &uot;They come in here and they may not be a member of any other club. They may not play sports. The ROTC program gives them a place to belong and a place to learn a lot of different things.&uot;

Sgt. Maj. James Seale said he estimates at least 100 students a year enroll in the program.

&uot;That would be a low guess,&uot; Seale said. There have been years that there were 200 in the program. One year there was even 240.&uot;

This year the numbers are as strong as ever with 184 students participating. They enroll in the program for many reasons. Some are looking for a path to their future and some simply want to better themselves in their everyday life. Shiver said his goal is always to give the students options.

&uot;They can come out of this program with a lot of different options,&uot; Shiver said. &uot;They can join the military and go in with higher pay than if they had not been in the program, or they can participate in the program at college. There are a lot of different things they can do.&uot;

Students who do wish to join the military after high school can enter the service with higher rank and higher pay base on the extent of their ROTC tenure throughout high school. Students who have been in the program for two years may enter the service as an E-2. Those who have been in for three may enter as an E-3. If they choose to go to college there are also several scholarships available through the program.

Seale said normally around 10 or 12 seniors in the program chose to enter the military immediately after graduation. He said they enter every branch available and usually lean one way or the other in cycles.

&uot;It usually goes in a pattern,&uot; Seale said. &uot;One year most of them will go into the marine corp. and the next year they will go into the Coast Guard. This year most of them are joining the Air Force and Army this year.&uot;

One senior in the program, Jamila Davis, has decided to enter the military because of her positive experience in the program. Davis, who is in her fourth year in the program where she achieved the rank of Captain, said she was very excited about her future with the United States Air Force.

&uot;I am very excited about it,&uot; Davis said. &uot;I look forward to it and am glad the ROTC program was here for me. It helped me to figure out exactly what I wanted to do when I finished here.&uot;

Fortunately, for Davis and the others the program was there. Last year there were doubts about the future of Greenville’s ROTC program. Problems in funding forced the school system to question how high a priority the program was.

They were answered quickly. An outpouring of public support from parents, students and other concerned citizens let everyone know just how vital the program was. Davis said her mother had so much confidence in the program she went before the school board to plead her case.

&uot;My mother went before the school board and was really happy to see the program stay,&uot; Davis said. &uot;It was a very good thing that we were able to keep it.&uot;

Shiver said last year was a bit of a scare, but was glad to see people make the right decision.

&uot;There was some uncertainty last year,&uot; said Shiver. &uot;But I think people realized how important this program is to people. We had a lot of support from the public and that was a big help.&uot;

The benefits have been huge for the students who were able to come back to the program. Daniel Lawrence, who has achieved the rank of Major, said he applies what he has learned every day.

&uot;I definitely use a lot of things I have learned in my everyday life,&uot; Lawrence said. &uot;The biggest thing is probably respect for other people. That has gotten me the farthest out of everything I have learned.&uot;

First Sgt. Marcus Jones said he has picked up the skills to be a leader among his peers.

&uot;They really stress leadership and it is something I have learned a lot about,&uot; Jones said. &uot;It is something I can apply every day and benefit from a lot.&uot;

Aside from the many other hats the ROTC wears it also serves as a source of pride for the high school. Principal Dr. Kathy Murphy said she and everyone else associated with the school are extremely happy with the program.

&uot;We are very proud of our ROTC program,&uot; Murphy said. &uot;Col. Shiver and Sgt. Maj. Seale are dedicated to the program and our school. Our students are very fortunate to have ROTC whether they are considering a military career or not.&uot;

They hope it remains that way.

&uot;We hope to see the program have as much success as it can,&uot; Seale said. &uot;It is all geared to motivate these students to be better people now and after they graduate. We look forward to helping them along the way.&uot;