Minden High School is home to 90 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets this year, which is the second year the Crimson Tide Battalion has been in operation.
Bringing JROTC to Minden High School (MHS) has taken quite a while, according to Senior Army Instructor Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Army (retired) Robert Peden.
"Starting a JROTC program can be a lengthy process," Peden said. "It began several years ago with the school administration, with support from the (Webster Parish) school board, initiating the process by contacting the U.S. Army Cadet Command and requesting to start an Army JROTC program."
Participant numbers show that students are embracing the newly-implemented program.
"Between last year and this year, 100 is the average," Peden said. "It will take some time to build the foundation of a productive and long-lasting program. One hundred (students) would be a good average for a school this size. A program that is established for some time will average more because of word of mouth between students."
To participate, students must meet requirements set by each battalion such as maintaining acceptable standards of academic achievement and conduct.
"The specifics can vary between battalions based on the battalion Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)," Peden explained. "Our SOP details what average must be maintained in JROTC and all school academics in order to be placed in leadership positions."
In addition to wearing Army issued uniforms every Wednesday, which are provided at no cost to the student, cadets will also be graded on dress inspection. The uniforms must be worn all day, including to and from school.
"Ultimately, the cadets run the daily activities of the Battalion," Peden said. "We have many activities and expect to add more as we mature."
Activities include Drill and Ceremony, in which all cadets must become proficient.
"This covers everything from formations to marching in squads and companies," Peden said. "We have an active Color Guard available to post or present the national colors for all home football games, parades and other local events.
"We are working to establish a Drill team where cadets focus on precision marching drills either with or without dummy rifles," he continued. "As well, we have an Adventure Team where cadets learn basic land navigation, first aid and leadership reaction drills. We look forward to participating in local and regional competitions with other JROTC programs with our Color Guard, Drill Team and Adventure Teams."
According to Peden, there are direct benefits to being a JROTC cadet and joining any of the military services. If eligible, former JROTC cadets can obtain a higher rank following graduation of basic training.
"However, in no way is JROTC a recruiting tool for the military," Peden said. "Our mission is 'To motivate young people to become better citizens'."
Peden said statistics support facts that show Cadets in JROTC are more likely not to miss school, and there are decreased dropout rates and decreased discipline problems, while maintaining a higher grade point averages and higher graduation rates.
"All of these, combined with the discipline and leadership experience, will benefit the cadets who want to pursue higher education," he said. "JROTC is a service to our nation, in that it provides cadets the motivation and skills to improve physical fitness; remain drug free; think critically and creatively; communicate effectively; work as a team member; graduate from high school; pursue meaningful careers especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; and become successful citizens.
"The Crimson Tide JROTC Battalion is proud to be a part of Minden High School, and the surrounding community," Peden continued. "We look forward to serving both (the school and the community) in the future."
In addition to Peden, Crimson Tide Battalion is instructed by Master Sergeant Janell Larkin, who spent 28 years in the Army and is currently working toward completing her MBA.
Peden graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University as commissioned a Second Lieutenant through the ROTC program. He spent 20 years on Active Duty where he served until retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel. Peden also holds a Masters Degree from St. Mary's University.