February 19, 2018
School & Youth
42° Overcast
  • Master Sergeant Christopher Mattis (right) and Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Jenkins oversee the MCJROTC program, but the student cadets are encouraged to take leadership.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    Master Sergeant Christopher Mattis (right) and Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Jenkins oversee the MCJROTC program, but the student cadets are encouraged to take leadership.
  • In a classroom shooting range, Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Jenkins (left) and Master Sergeant Christopher Mattis supervise student cadets as they shoot pellets.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    In a classroom shooting range, Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Jenkins (left) and Master Sergeant Christopher Mattis supervise student cadets as they shoot pellets.
  • In November, the Northeast MCJROTC program celebrated the 242nd birthday of the United States Marine Corps by hosting a ball that drew 300 guests.
    Photo courtesy of Neil Fluhr
    In November, the Northeast MCJROTC program celebrated the 242nd birthday of the United States Marine Corps by hosting a ball that drew 300 guests.
  • Photos courtesy of Neil Fluhr
    Photo courtesy of Neil Fluhr
    Photos courtesy of Neil Fluhr

Marine Corps Junior ROTC Program Empowers Northeast Students To Become Leaders

Zach Sparks
picture
View Bio
January 23, 2018

On the second level of Northeast High School, in a secluded wing, students shoot air rifles in a classroom and learn about cybersecurity. One room over from the shooting range, there’s an armory and a supply room where students organize boots and equipment.

That area is occupied by the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (MCJROTC), which serves a simple but valuable purpose.

“When you think of an ROTC program, it is not a recruiting tool,” said Master Sergeant Christopher Mattis. “It is not to put them in the armed services. It’s to make them better citizens.”

Northeast hosts one of three specialized military ROTC programs in Anne Arundel County. Fort Meade has an Army program and Annapolis has a Navy one.

The Northeast program was formed three years ago. A former truck master and firefighter with 20 years of active duty experience in the Marine Corps, Mattis joined the Northeast program two years ago. He said the program is student-led, and it is facilitated by himself and Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Jenkins.

“I found that was my niche and I wanted to help somebody else find their way,” said Mattis, a former career recruiter whose son is a freshman at Northeast. “When retirement came up, I wanted to give back, so I got involved in ROTC.”

Providing Purpose

Student cadets arrive at Northeast at 6:00am each day of the week. They have color guard rehearsal on Monday, unarmed drill on Tuesday, exhibition drill on Wednesday, armed drill on Thursday and video review on Friday, when they assess their performance as a professional athlete would the day after a game.

During the day, they learn about military customs and history, discuss the benefits of proper diet and health practices, review their rights and responsibilities as United States citizens, engage in CyberPatriot classes, execute the manual of arms or work on their resumes, with each activity documented for potential inclusion in their portfolios.

The activities teach them responsibility, leadership, accountability and confidence.

Cadet First Lieutenant Robert Massey, a senior, enrolled in MCJROTC three years ago. “When I first joined, my GPA sat around 2.5. I’ve raised it to about 3.9 or 4,” Massey said. “I feel like my progress has made me work more diligently and play a more important role in class.”

As a first lieutenant and a communications officer, Massey said he is in charge of what the company does and doesn’t do. He plans meetings and promotes cadets. Outside of MCJROTC, he runs cross-country and track and field. Massey aspires to attend the Coast Guard Academy for four years and eventually join the FBI.

Cadet Sergeant Major Trent Shaffer also attributes recent lifestyle changes to the MCJROTC opportunity.

“Before the program, I always put school on the backburner,” Shaffer said. “It’s not my forte. I always looked at the rank of sergeant major and thought, ‘What do I have to do to get there?’”

Shaffer’s father is a sergeant in the Marine Corps, and he knows that to get to a similar level, he has to excel in the classroom.

“He’s come a long way, grades and maturity wise,” Mattis said. “He holds a lot of good value.” Mattis also said that Shaffer made honor roll this year for the first time. “He has to lead by example,” Mattis said of Shaffer. “The position he holds motivates him and keeps him accountable.”

Overall, 122 cadets are involved in MCJROTC. Of those, about 15 percent are females, according to Mattis. Just like the Marine Corps, MCJROTC has a chain of command, and leadership roles are held by students both male and female.

One of those leaders is Cadet Second Lieutenant Tamera Parker. The junior, currently in her second year with the program, was initially inclined not to join.

“When I did join, I loved it,” said Parker, who plans to study nuclear engineering. “I like showing leadership to my fellow cadets, and you have to hold everyone to a high standard.”

That standard is too high for some teens who don’t stick with the program — the attritional rate is between 2 and 5 percent — for various reasons, whether they don’t want to adhere to the haircut policy or wear the proper attire.

For others, like Massey and Shaffer, it’s just what they need.

Branching Out

MCJROTC has also created a bond for many of its members who prepare for the Youth Physical Fitness Test (YPFT) and participate in community service projects.

Collectively, they will hold a fundraiser on February 1 at 6:00pm at Texas Roadhouse with proceeds going to transportation costs, meals and uniforms. On April 14 at 9:00am, they’ll hold a 5K with funds going to three areas: 50 percent to Wounded Warrior Project, 40 percent to transportation costs and 10 percent to a deserving student, not necessarily a member of MCJROTC.

“They enjoy it,” Jenkins said of the cadets’ involvement. “They feel this warmness when giving back.”

In November, they celebrated the 242nd birthday of the United States Marine Corps by hosting a ball that drew 300 guests including student cadets, family members, friends, local business leaders, Northeast teachers and a special guest, Sergeant Major Banks from the United States Marine Corps.

They also compete at many YPFT events. “You have to work really hard,” Mattis said. “If you’re not first, second or third, you go home with nothing, which I love. I love losing, because the cadets are coming back and working hard. It takes a lot for a teenager to be here at 6:00am.”

Since the program is in only its third year, Northeast is still raising awareness of MCJROTC, which is recognized as a leadership course. The hope is that more development will lead to other opportunities, such as National Security Agency internships.

As Mattis said, and Jenkins affirmed, MCJROTC is more than a class. The program helps teens transition into confident adults.

“Like a lot of the junior Marines I was serving with, I wish I had somebody to tell me X, Y and Z,” Jenkins said. “We’re seeing a transition, we’re watching them go out and prosper.”


Sidebar Ad

Faces of the Voice

  • Dylan Roche
    Editor
    @dylroche
    @dylroche
    @dylroche
  • Zach Sparks
    Assistant Editor
    @Sparks907
    @Sparks907
    @Sparks907
  • Dianna Lancione
    Publisher
    parkiewoman
  • Lonnie Lancione
    Publisher
  • William Nauman
    Creative Director
  • Colin Murphy
    Sports Editor
    @ArVoiceSports / @ColinAJMurphy
    @SPVoiceSports / @ColinAJMurphy
    @PVoiceSports / @ColinAJMurphy
  • Brian Lancione
    V.P., Operations
  • Larry Sells
    Vice President, Sales and Development
    @LarrySells1
    @LarrySells1
    @LarrySells1

Latest Tweets

Events Calendar

Request an Advertising Quote

Please do not add dashes. (ex: 4106479400)
Do not enter anything here.
Search Articles
Search Authors
Search Blog