Decatur City Schools has received verbal approval from the U.S. Army to start a National Defense Cadet Corps program at Decatur High.
The program will be almost the same as JROTC at Austin High, except the local school district will have to fund it for at least two years.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make this program happen because we have seen the success of ROTC at Austin,” Superintendent Ed Nichols said.
The estimated annual cost to fund a commissioned and non-commissioned officer for a school program is about $135,000.
After two years, Decatur can petition the Army for the same financial arrangement as at Austin, where the government pays half the cost to run the program.
“We’re excited about the chance to open up more opportunities for our students,” Nichols said.
For 18 years, Decatur students have attended JROTC at Austin.
Austen Myers, a junior at Decatur who has risen to second lieutenant at Austin, said there are several students who are not in ROTC because they did not want to come to Austin.
“I personally think it’s childish, because if you’re committed to serve you would come,” he said.
Myers, who has been in the program three years, said his grandfathers served in the military, which is why he plans to attend the Air Force Academy when he graduates.
Kayla Wahn, a transfer student from Texas and sophomore at Decatur, likes the move. She said there were multiple schools with military programs in the district she attended in Texas.
“We’ll be able to have some friendly competition between the schools,” Wahn said. “I definitely expect more students to be involved.”
Col. James Walker has been involved with JROTC at Austin from the beginning. He said 52 Decatur students came the first year, but the number has declined to 30.
“I believe the numbers at Decatur would increase if the school had its own program,” Walker said.
He toured Decatur High with Army officials. Walker said they concluded the school is capable of providing a classroom and indoor and outdoor training areas.
“Decatur has been told it can have the program, it’s just a matter of getting the official notification in writing,” he said.
Deangelo McDaniel can be reached at 256-340-2469 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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