DARIEN, Ill. - An Army Reserve two-star general officer visited a Chicago-based JROTC academy to promote good citizenship and education to a group of cadets, March 3.
"It is especially important to talk with our young people - first about being a good citizens, second about the benefits of serving in the military, and finally about the importance of Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) careers," said Maj. Gen. David Conboy, the commander of the 416th Theater Engineer Command, an Army Reserve command headquartered in Darien, Ill.
The academy he visited was Carver Military Academy High School JROTC, located just 25 miles from the 416th TEC headquarters. Carver is one of 45 JROTC high school programs in Chicago. There are more than 10,000 JROTC cadets in this area, making it the largest group in the nation.
The 416th TEC has more than 13,000 Reserve soldiers, many of which are combat engineers or perform community and military construction projects throughout the U.S. and the world.
"Now is the time to talk with these young adults about their future career options so that they can take the classes and get the grades necessary to best position themselves for success in the future," said Conboy.
Conboy did more than just talking. He listened. During the first portion of his visit a group of senior cadets gave the general a presentation on the school, common goals and their testimonies.
"Today's experience made me realize that generals can be some really cool people. Overall, I was really nervous about today's brief, but after we got acquainted with him it made it easy for us to get up and brief him and talk about our personal experience," said Citrick Davis, a cadet lieutenant colonel and executive officer for the "Challengers" Brigade.
From college, to nursing school, to military, each cadet shared his or her personal ambitions with the general. Every one shared a story of how the JROTC program shaped their personality or helped them grow.
"Many (of them) have overcome significant challenges, and I was very impressed by their professionalism, teamwork, drive and focus on continuing to improve themselves to be the best they can be," said Conboy, who lives in Buffalo, N.Y.
During the second portion of his visit, Conboy gave a presentation on his Army Reserve engineer command and the importance of STEM. STEM is an aggressive educational effort to advance the technical capabilities of the United States and promote skills and studies that lead to stable career opportunities.
"The STEM program really taught me a lot about the side of the Army that the recruiters don't tell us. All of us know about deployments and the housing, but none of us knew that there were soldiers building those developments," said Davis, referring to photos shown of engineer soldiers building training sites and community projects.
Currently in the U.S. there are more STEM-based job opportunities than graduating students who qualify for them. Only 44 percent of high school graduates are ready for college level courses in math, and 36 percent in science.
"I hope they enjoyed the discussion and presentation and better understand the options that are open to them in the military and the importance of STEM careers to our nation," said Conboy.
Conboy holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a master's in environmental engineering, among others, so it was especially important for him to talk on the subject, he said. It is part of Conboy's and the Army Reserve's initiative to be more involved with the community.
"I really like the community outreach that the Reserve units (do). Today really opened my eyes to more jobs in the military that I am willing to try," said Davis.