Diamonds in the rough - Wilcox Central High School JROTC program shines
Maj. John A. Brown, commander, Wilcox Central High School Junior Officer Reserve Training Corps, Detachment AL-936, Camden Ala. speaks to his cadets prior to starting their play, which highlighted sexual assault awareness on March 29. Detachment AL-936 is a shining example of excellence despite the area they are located in. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)
by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz
Air University Public Affairs
4/18/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Wilcox Central High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment AL-936 from Camden, Alabama excels despite being located in one of the poorest cities in the nation.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Wilcox County is the sixth-poorest county nationwide and the poorest county in Alabama based on median income, with approximately 48-percent of children under the age of 18 living below the poverty line.
Yet, the detachment is a shining example of success.
Whether it is winning the AFJROTC Outstanding Unit Award for the 2009-2010 school year, performing more than 2,800 hours of community service or being requested specifically for Honor Guard and Color Guard functions, detachment AL-936 stands out in an environment which is vastly different than the image they project.
Detachment cadets serve as role models by travelling to all of the local elementary and middle schools in the area and by serving in various career day events.
Maj. John A. Brown, Wilcox Central High School AFJROTC commander said many of the current cadets have either been accepted to colleges or have multiple offers on the table, even though Camden's high school graduation rate is 63.9%, according to the latest survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.
"They have within themselves the desire to achieve and do well," said Maj. Brown. "They all have goals and strive very hard to reach those goals. Not just military goals but goals for their life. They support each other and watch each other's back. They all care and respect each other."
The commander said it's great to see the detachment excel even though the detachment is located in an area where illicit activities, including drug and larceny-related crimes, are prevalent.
"I am extremely proud of them, which is why I drive from Millbrook, Ala. to Camden, Ala. (approximately 70 miles) every day," said the detachment commander. "There are other things I could do, but these cadets hold a special place in my heart. They stand out in so many ways and it is a mindset for them. They set out to make a difference and my job here is to guide them."
One of the cadets Maj. Brown has guided successfully is Cadet Col. Thomas Saulsberry, AL-936's inspector general. Saulsberry recently was awarded a full-scholarship to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. starting next year.
"I am extremely proud of Cadet Saulsberry," said Brown. "He has the servant leadership mentality. He humbles himself to a way of learning to serve people so when he becomes a leader he can be more effective. He is the kind of person that people want to listen to, that the cadets want to emulate."
People have the chance to listen to Cadet Saulsberry every Saturday in Camden on 90.5 FM, where he hosts a radio show every weekend and serves as a positive teen role model for youth in his community.
Saulsberry said his love of the Air Force inspired him to join AFJROTC, citing its disciplined structure and steady guidance as positive highlights to the program. However, not all of his peers saw the JROTC program is that positive light.
"For the most part, my peers have been supportive," he said. "On the other hand, some people have asked me why I was in JROTC, making fun of the program itself and even my uniform."
The cadet did not let the heckling of his detractors dissuade him from his goals of becoming a future Air Force officer and offered this piece of advice:
"I always tell them, it is not the uniform that makes the man, it's the man that makes the uniform."