RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Forty-seven students from the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program at Punahou are training this week at Schofield Barracks' Air Assault School. Punahou School freshman Jordan Wakayama, left, assisted yesterday as Damien High School sophomore Shawn Bittner crossed a rope bridge. Among those looking on was Punahou junior Shalynn Ho, standing beyond Bittner. CLICK FOR LARGE
Isle JROTC cadets train at Schofield
Some kids join because it's something different. Others, to challenge and improve themselves. Some kids join to see whether they are suited for a life in the military, while others join because they plan a career in uniform.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Takao says some girls join the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps to meet boys, and some boys join to meet girls. Takao is senior Army instructor of the JROTC program at Punahou School.
Whatever their reasons for joining, enrollment in JROTC in Hawaii high schools has remained steady, said retired Lt. Col. Antoinette Correia, JROTC manager.
JROTC stresses that its mission is not to recruit kids into the military, but to make them better citizens. And Takao believes all the different reasons why kids join have helped maintain interest in the program and allow the military services to maintain their numbers.
Twenty-five public schools on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island have JROTC programs. Punahou School and Saint Louis School are the private schools that have them.
Punahou accepts students from schools that do not have their own JROTC programs. Of the nearly 140 kids enrolled at Punahou, nearly half are from other schools, Takao said.
This week, 47 kids from Punahou's program are attending camp at Schofield Barracks' Air Assault School.
Yesterday the cadets learned to rappel and construct and traverse a rope bridge.
Scott Peters, 14, will be a freshman at Punahou in the fall. He said he has two uncles in the Air Force and would like to continue the family's military tradition.
His goal for JROTC?
"Just doing this stuff, finding out what I'm good at," he said.
Ever since she was a little girl, said Hana Lee, 17, a Punahou senior, her parents told her stories from their native South Korea, where military service is mandatory. She said she intended to join the military early, and the events of Sept. 11, 2001, reinforced her resolve.
"It's something I always wanted to do. And I feel strongly for my country, and my country needs me," she said.
Lee wants to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Those who do join the military can get credit for their years attending JROTC. Enlistees can enter at a higher pay grade, and those who enroll in college ROTC programs can skip the first two years.
About a quarter of the kids from JROTC either enlist, go to a service academy or enroll in ROTC in college, Correia said.
But the military is not suited for everyone, even those who want to join. Damien Memorial High School senior Patrick Isaacs had planned to enlist in the Marines since the eighth grade. He found out earlier this year that his asthma prevents him from entering any of the military services.
"That was disappointing," he said.
Isaacs stays in JROTC to remain active and because he likes the program.