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The Packer Weekly: French realizes potential through JROTC

Junior Jacee French, a participant of JROTC for the past three years, has earned the rank of company commander of Delta Company. Special to The Forum

Col. Douglas Trenda of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program saluted junior Jacee French as she received her medal during the year-end awards ceremony. French was straight-faced returning the salute, but as she turned away, she cracked a smile at her accomplishment.

French has been a participant of JROTC for the past three years and has earned the rank of company commander of Delta Company.

“(JROTC) has a military setting, (but) a lot of it is just trying to teach students to be more responsible and better leaders,” French said.

Col. Trenda, who has been teaching at West Fargo for two years, echoes French in his explanation of the mission of this program, saying that it is to motivate young people to be better citizens.

“(JROTC) is not to put people into the military as some may think,” Trenda said. “We focus on leadership classes, and it teaches people to be self-disciplined, to be at the right place at the right time with the right stuff.”

The program views the military as a model for class structure. Classes are battalions made up of cadets and headed by a commander. Commanders are under the leadership of an executive officer and command sergeant major. The students in these positions handle inspections and training of cadets.

There is a staff that deals with administrative duties and operations as well as logistics.

French has seen herself grow as a person because of the class’s emphasis on responsibility and accountability.

“I think one thing (JROTC) has taught me a lot is to just do my best in all things,” French said. “It gave me a lot of motivation to do my best in everything I do.”

First Sgt. Tyler Lajeunesse, a participant of JROTC for three years, has worked alongside French for this past year and will continue. Though he is uncertain how everyone will fit into their new jobs, he has confidence in the ability of his peers.

“We have a fairly good idea of what our responsibilities will be, what our jobs will require us to do,” Lajeunesse said.

Using the skills gained in the program, only about 5 percent of JROTC participants actually go on into a military field after high school. French finds herself a part of that minority and is planning on enrolling in the Air Force Academy.

“I definitely want to be a part of the military, even if the academy isn’t an option,” French said. “Actually, I was, at first, even scared to be a part of the (JROTC) program. I didn’t really think I wanted to have anything to do with the military, but just being in the setting of leadership is something I really enjoy.”

The Packer Weekly is an ongoing column authored by high school journalism students with the intent of providing insight into a variety of school-related topics and activities.