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Family has always been close to Cadet Justin Locklear, very close. His grandparents and cousins are his next door neighbors and the rest of his family is just a short drive away. Locklear was born and raised as a member of the Lumbee Tribe, in Prospect, N.C., a small community just north of Pembroke, N.C., the political center of the Lumbee Native American Tribe.
Growing up, Locklear was close to his two older cousins, Aaron and Alex Oxendine — they were his role models and one of the key reasons he decided to pursue military service. Both of his cousins trained as simultaneous membership program (SMP) Cadets in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (Army ROTC) program at the University of North Carolina State.
Army ROTC Cadets who go the SMP route are enlisted in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve at the same time as they are studying for a college degree. Locklear’s cousins served as National Guard Soldiers and were commissioned as U.S. Army Officers, both are former 1st. Lieutenants.
“I looked up to them, you know, they were my next door neighbors… I interacted with them so much that I kind of wanted to be like them,” Locklear said. “They gave me all the tips, the ins and outs, and what to do and how to do it. They encouraged me to pick up the program (Army ROTC) and that’s what I did… I figured I could do that too.”
Former 1st. Lt. Aaron Oxendine, one of Locklear’s cousins, served as a scout platoon leader in the 13th Cavalry Regiment for 1st Armored Division, at Fort Bliss, Texas. When reflecting on his eight years of service, Oxendine, now a distribution supervisor for a national brand, is proud to see the impact he had on Locklear.
“I enjoyed my time in the military and took great pride in serving,” Oxendine said. “Not only is he following my footsteps, he comes from a family of soldiers who served before him. To see Justin take the same path to become an officer in the United States Army as I did is exciting. I enjoy giving him advice and sharing my experiences. Hopefully he can take from that, make better decisions and avoid some of the mistakes I made. I’m glad to see him taking on a challenging yet rewarding career.”
When Locklear was 17, he took his first steps toward following his cousins by enlisting in the North Carolina Army National Guard. Neither of Locklear’s parents served, yet he received support early on to continue his family’s legacy of military service after his grandfather, uncle and cousins.
His mother, Priscilla Locklear, didn’t expect her son to take the path he is on, but she is proud of his accomplishments within the National Guard and his commitment to becoming an Army Officer.
“I feel so proud of him, knowing that he chose to serve our country and to help with his college tuition,” Priscilla Locklear said. “This speaks volumes about Justin and his maturity, he has been enlisted since 17 years old… It has helped Justin become disciplined, focused, mentally tough and resilient along with structure and stability in his life.”
Locklear graduated from Purnell Swett High School in 2018 with a six year commitment to the National Guard. After graduation he completed his Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and applied to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) beginning his time as an Army ROTC Cadet.
Locklear began college studying business management, but after working with his Cadre and university, Locklear found studying criminal justice to be a better fit. This switch allowed him more flexibility for his responsibilities as a Cadet while still being a Soldier in the National Guard.
“You have to invest in the program (Army ROTC), just as much as your degree,'' Locklear said.
After Locklear’s first semester at UNCP in the spring of 2019, he faced an international deployment with the Army National Guard. Despite a year away from college, this deployment gave him experience as an active duty Soldier, sending him to Germany, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
“It was definitely eye-opening, being able to see the world like that and being able to experience it with so many different people,” Locklear said. “You get to see how people think and react, especially under pressure. Being under pressure brings the real person out of somebody.”
No stranger to traveling, Locklear trained in several different states with the National Guard before his overseas deployment. However, this was the first time he had been out of the country.
Looking back at his experience, Locklear said he came to realize the value of being home, his support system of family, friends and the Lumbee community.
“Time away from home, you know… is a big thing…,” Locklear said.” Just being away from home you get to realize what is really at home for you...”
While serving in the National Guard, Locklear has had several opportunities to practice his Christain faith, yet found it difficult to stay connected with his Native American heritage. He faced the reality that he wasn’t around enough people with a similar background even back at his home unit in Lumberton, N.C., just 19 miles from Pembroke, N.C.
“I feel like there is just not enough in one area to actually have anything (Native American events or support groups), there just aren't enough people together,'' Locklear said. “Even for my weekend drill there are only four people that are Native American.”
Locklear values the Lumbee events he has attended back home, though he described himself and his family as not being the most involved in the tribe.
“It’s like trying to keep that familiarization with your tribe. It’s that unity, you keep a bond with everyone...,” Locklear said. “You’re not forgetting the people before you and the people that are coming up.
For now he continues to look towards the Lumbee community and his family to stay connected with his heritage. One of the ways he is aiming to do just that, is by bringing his voice as a Lumbee Tribe member and U.S. Army Soldier to the UNCP Student Government. Locklear plans to run as the student representative for the criminal justice department next spring.
Justin Locklear was inspired to run by Dana Hunt-Locklear, a longtime friend of his and the current UNCP student government president. The two share a common last name in the Lumbee community, but they are not related. In her position, she proudly represents the Lumbee people and the student body.
He is still early into his campaign, yet remains optimistic about balancing his responsibilities as a student, an Army ROTC Cadet and student government representative.
Locklear is expecting to contract this winter, putting him on track to commission spring 2023. After graduating the Army ROTC program and receiving his degree at UNCP, Locklear hopes to continue his family’s legacy of military service and lead as a signal Officer.
About Army ROTC
Army ROTC is one of the best leadership courses in the country and is part of your college curriculum. Through classes and field training, Army ROTC provides you with the tools to become an Army Officer without interfering with your other classes. ROTC also provides you with discipline and money for tuition while enhancing your college experience.
Army ROTC offers pathways to becoming an Army Officer for high school students, current active duty Soldiers, and for current National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers through the Simultaneous Membership Program.
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