The Coast Guard participated in the establishment ceremony of the Coast Guard Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) unit at Pinellas Park High School in Largo, Florida, Friday.
The unit is the fourth Coast Guard JROTC established, and the second unit established under recently-expanded federal law.
The ceremony was presided over by Coast Guard Rear Adm. Megan Dean, director of governmental and public affairs and attended by Capt. Matthew Thomas, commanding officer of Sector St. Petersburg, and Cmdr. Brett Walter, executive officer of Air Station Clearwater. The 170 cadet unit is the Coast Guard’s largest, led by Coast Guard Retired Capt. Ed Sheppard.
“This is an amazing opportunity to have an impact on the community and mentor students,” said Sheppard.
The JROTC program is a cooperative effort between the Coast Guard, local communities, and host institutions to provide high school students with opportunities for personal and civic development. The program is a stimulus for promoting graduation from high school, in addition to providing instruction and rewarding opportunities that will benefit students, communities, and ultimately the nation.
“Today was stressful and amazing, said Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Chay Sabodski, the student company commander of the unit. “This year I’m looking forward to starting more teams, competing, and finding new leaders for next year.”
Satisfactory completion of the program equips participants with the skills and tools to excel, and may lead to career success in the armed forces. Statistically, 40% of cadets who remain in JROTC through their senior year will affiliate with a branch of the military.
“The mission of Coast Guard JROTC is ‘Developing Service-Minded Citizens of Character,’” said Cmdr. Clay Cromer, the Coast Guard JROTC program manager. “Our JROTC accomplishes that mission by training cadets on the COAST, an acronym for our 5-fold pillars of Citizenship, Operations, Advancement, Service, and Teamwork. These pillars guide the learning that takes place in and outside of the classroom.”
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 authorized the Coast Guard to operate a nationwide JROTC program. The first unit in this era was established at Lucy Beckham High School in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina Oct. 8, 2021. Legacy Coast Guard JROTC units were established under special legislation at the MAST Academy in Miami, Florida in 1992 and Camden County High School in Camden, North Carolina in 2010.