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JROTC History (unofficial)



     Of all JROTC initiatives introduced during Wagner’s tenure as Cadet Command Commander, Operation Capital was by far the most ambitious in scope. The inspiration for this program came from a visit made by Wagner and his long-time associate Calvin Foster, to Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C., in March 1989. During the visit, they saw first hand the deplorable condition of an inner-city school. Upon entering the school, they saw in the foyer a marble copy of the school creed. The creed had been defaced, spray-painted, and marked over with vulgar graffiti. The hallways of the school were in a similar condition.

     When they reached the school’s small gymnasium, the two men saw the JROTC battalion in formation, standing at present arms. This scene offered a striking contrast to the one they had just witnessed. According to their later recollections, this episode was a defining experience for them. From then on, both were convinced of the necessity of devoting more resources to inner-city JROTC programs.

     By mid-summer 1989, the High School Division had developed the Operation Capital concept into a program that the District of Columbia’s educational administrators could endorse. It represented a partnership between the Army and the Washington, D.C. school system aimed at improving the quality of education by reducing drug abuse and drop-out rates and promoting good citizenship.

     One advantage of Operation Capital was that it could function within the existing JROTC infrastructure without any additional resources or funding. The operation involved a total of 874 Army cadets in JROTC battalions at eight District of Columbia high schools. To ensure adequate coordination between its headquarters and school authorities, Cadet Command assigned a captain as liaison officer to the staff of the Washington, D.C. school administration.

     The program action plan consisted of eight activities intended to supplement the Leadership, Education and Training program of instruction – enrollment and retention, role model program, drill competition, summer camp, data collection, mentorship, orientation clinic, and peer counseling. Based on these categories, each school was asked to devise its own action plan, capitalizing on the strengths of its program, and at the same time promoting cooperation and interaction between schools. In this way, those schools with successful programs in one of the areas (such as drill competition or enrollment) could help the others reach comparable levels of achievement.

     The objective of the enrollment and retention program was to encourage students to join JROTC. This was done primarily by soliciting the help of officials in the high schools. In the role model program, cadets were treated to a series of military and civilian guest speakers who advocated remaining in school and staying drug-free as the keys to a good future. Drill competition meets were considered necessary to build self-discipline, pride, unit cohesion and teamwork. They were also intended to bring visibility to the benefits of belonging to a JROTC battalion. Cadet Command and city school administration-sponsored summer camps satisfied the students’ need for sports, adventure, and individual skill development. Data collection (surveys, file searches, and interviews) kept the information flow between the school authorities and Cadet Command going and helped to develop programs relevant to the needs of the students. A one-on-one relationship (or mentorship) was encouraged between local businessmen or university students and cadets to give them encouragement and support. Peer counseling allowed mature cadets, trained in proper counseling techniques, to convince other cadets of the importance of obtaining an education and the dangers of using drugs. The orientation clinic was a program in which senior high school cadets would canvas junior high schools for the purpose of explaining to the students the benefits of joining JROTC.

     On Aug. 17, 1989, Cadet command representatives briefed District of Columbia public school officials about the program. Although initially reluctant, the educators finally bought into it. On Oct. 24, 1989, Dr. Andrew E. Jenkins, Superintendent of D.C. schools, signed a memorandum of agreement with Maj. Gen. Wagner to implement Operation Capital. There followed a series of briefings intended to enlist the support of influential officials within the Department of Defense, The Department of the Army, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services. When William Clark, acting Assistant Secretary of the Army, heard about Operation Capital in October 1989, he became excited about it and proposed that it be presented before the Army Policy Council. That body was briefed in November. Such efforts helped clear a path for the program through government channels.

     Meanwhile, through the work of region commanders, the operation was extended to encompass eight additional cities. The new cities were Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, El Paso, Shreveport, Dallas, and San Diego. By mid-1990, Operation Capital was in full swing.

     The reorientation of JROTC that occurred during Wagner’s watch represented a break with the past. Maj. Gen. Wagner, while not abandoning the traditional aims of the program, recast it in a different mold, transforming it into what amounted to an instrument of social engineering.