The Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army hosted a breakfast for ROTC and junior ROTC program instructors July 12, at the Jackson Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The event provided an opportunity for the instructors to network, discuss challenges, compare ideas and learn about AUSA resources for their programs. Aviation and Missile Command Sgt. Maj. Bradford Smith was the keynote speaker for the event. He spoke about community service and the impact mentorship has on young adults.
“Everyone in this room is an influencer,” Smith said. “Keep pushing your students forward, because they are going to look at you and say, ‘I can’t do it, or there is too much in front of me, or it’s not worth it.’ I know some of you are challenged with that each and every day, and I want to thank you for doing what you are doing because you are making an impact. You see them overcome tasks and adversity, and you see them accomplish what they didn’t think was possible.”
Smith told the audience about his best friend, a JROTC instructor at Lake Hamilton High School in Arkansas. Smith was the guest speaker at their military ball in February, and he said he was amazed at the commitment, focus and energy of the cadets.
“I stood in the receiving line and shook the hand of every cadet, family member and friend, and thanked them for being part of the program,” he said. “It was just so humbling to me.”
Smith said while he knew his friend was a JROTC instructor, he did not fully understand the importance of the cadet-instructor relationship.
“I told my buddy later that evening, ‘You know, what you are doing is impactful, and I didn’t understand the magnitude of it until you brought me to this event,’” Smith said. “‘How they look at you and how they respect you and how they respect the program is so different than what I expected.’”
Smith also spoke about how the mission of JROTC is about students becoming better citizens, which starts with community service. He told the crowd his wife gave him an assignment before he left for breakfast: find out how they both could be more involved and help these programs as well as the local community.
“I look forward to seeing how I can help you, not only in my current role, but also in the afternoons and evenings when I don’t have the uniform on and when I can volunteer.”
The Redstone-Huntsville AUSA chapter supports all ROTC and JROTC programs in Northern and Central Alabama, regardless of service branch. John Vanderbleek, who serves on the ROTC Affairs Committee, said the chapter hosts events throughout the year. They also offer an “Outstanding Cadet Award” to every program in the area. The winning cadets receive a cash award, a set of ribbons and a certificate to add to their resume and college applications.