For students in Biloxi High School’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp programs, discipline is just the beginning of a promising career.
Master Sgt. Kenneth Melton, one of three Aerospace Science Instructors at the school, explained the program’s appeal to students. Melton runs the AFJROTC Summer Leadership School program at Keesler Air Force Base, serves as the head coach of the MS-781 drill team and is the primary instructor for all second-year cadets.
“Not all of the kids are into the sports or some of the other activities,” he said.
“This is something that can pave the way for a bright future. It’s demanding, but there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with it.”
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The AFJROTC is an elective course at Biloxi High School that is open to all students. It’s a blend of science, social science, technical course work, training and ceremonies, and the elements of leadership. The course is divided into three areas: aerospace science, leadership education and health and wellness.
In November, the top 18 JROTC programs from across the state converged on Keesler to find out who was the best of the best. Those who came to support these students were blown away by what they saw. Biloxi High’s JROTC team won the championship. The team placed first in four of the six categories and beat out 17 of the best JROTC programs in the state. They received the All-Service JROTC Drill Championship trophy.
His returning JROTC students were motivated by a desire to surpass last year’s second place finish, Melton said.
Although participation in the JROTC program does not commit one to military service, many do go on to serve. When they do, they enter the military with a higher rank, which means higher pay, than their counterparts. Just about all the students look at JROTC scholarships as a means to help them with the next step of their education.
Melton said there are many scholarships available for JROTC students.
Biloxi has three aerospace science instructors: Melton, Maj. Ed Butler and Master Sgt. Stevie Hinton. All three instructors are retired from the U.S. Air Force, hold an educator's license from the state of Mississippi and are certified by the United States Air Force. Between them, the Biloxi instructors have 100 years of USAF and AFJROTC experience.
The success stories of the program keep a smile on his face, Melton said. Having taught at Biloxi for 18 years, he’s beginning to see a second generation of students take his classes.
Biloxi is a military town. However, when it comes to competitions, so is Ocean Springs, Gulfport and Harrison County school districts, Melton said. For any school to standout is a credit to the hard work of the students and the direction of the instructors. A recent Sun Herald video of the AFJROTC team performing in the fog gives an indication of the skill and discipline of the students.
The program aims to develop better informed citizens and promote a more productive future. Sticking with the program is a lesson in strength of character and leadership, Melton said.