Military Training : ROTC to Be Added at Lynwood Campus

Times Staff Writer

Shouts of "Hup, two, three, four," "Yes, sir!" and No, sir!" are expected to echo across the campus of Lynwood High School in the fall when a Junior Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps starts for the first time in the school district's 35-year history.

The Lynwood Unified School District Board of Trustees, which has been in turmoil recently and rarely casts unanimous votes, voted 5 to 0 at its last regular meeting to start the program on the 2,800-student campus.

"The others (board members) saw the benefits of the program," said board member Joe Battle, who retired as a noncommissioned officer after 22 years in the Army. "We have had students transfer to neighboring school districts with reserved training programs. This will stop now."

The district does not keep statistics on how many students transfer because of its lack of a military program, but transfers are given for that and other valid reasons, said LaVoneia Steele, acting superintendent of schools.

"I personally know of five or six students who have transferred during my three years on the board," Battle said.

District officials do not feel they will have a problem attracting 100 students, the minimum needed to fill the program.

People associated with ROTC programs say these programs are gaining in popularity and point to several reasons: Patriotism is on the upswing, bitterness associated with the Vietnam War is fading and students are seeking courses that could lead to a military career and are attracted by the lure of ROTC college scholarships.

Benefits Offered

The program offers a number of benefits to students, said Lynwood High School Principal Larry C. Tripplett, including teaching "leadership and discipline. And it provides camaraderie. And it is absolutely voluntary."

The junior ROTC program is part of the district's attempt to upgrade its entire educational curriculum, Tripplett said.

"As a comprehensive high school, we should offer as many programs as possible," he explained.

The district has applied and received permission to start a program from 4th ROTC Region headquarters at Fort Lewis, Wash., which governs the junior ROTC programs, Steele said.

2 Retired Instructors

The program could cost between $20,000 and $30,000 annually for two instructors, with the federal government paying half the cost as part of the standard agreement under such programs, Tripplett said.

The government would pay half the salary of one retired officer and one retired noncommissioned officer to run the program.

Courses, which include military science and history, first aid and disaster preparedness, are taught by retired military personnel who, though recommended by the military, are chosen by school officials.

Uniforms and other supplies are provided by the Army.

Beginning programs must have at least 100 students and that number must be maintained for the program to continue.

Good Turnout Expected

"We don't think we will have any problems getting the required numbers, given the size of the campus," Steele said.

Retired military personnel who run junior ROTC programs in the county said the current atmosphere in the country practically guarantees the program will be filled.

"There has been a surge in patriotism. The stigma of Vietnam is gone," said Norman Andrie, a retired Army colonel who is director of instruction for the Army ROTC programs in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

ROTC enrollment in the district has almost doubled in the past several years, Andrie said.

Twenty-three of 49 district high schools participate in the junior military reserve programs, which include all branches of the military, Andrie said. Programs at those schools have about 3,000 students, contrasted with about 1,800 four years ago.

Enrollment Has Grown

Larry Padgett, a retired Army colonel who heads the ROTC programs for the Long Beach Unified School District, agreed with Andrie.

"Once it was a struggle to keep 100 students in our programs. We don't have that problem today," he said.

About 725 students are enrolled in five Long Beach high school programs, which include Navy and Army ROTC, Padgett said.

"Students are interested in military service. Some students are looking to the military as a way of survival. They are looking for careers," Padgett said.

No Problems Seen

He said he does not believe Lynwood or any of the other school systems starting ROTC programs in the fall will have problems finding students.

These include an Orange County school, two in Riverside County and one in San Diego County.

"We used to have trouble getting students to wear their uniforms," Padgett said. "Today that is not a problem. Military dress is very fashionable among teen-agers today."

Students returning to the Lynwood campus in September will apparently be able to enroll in the program as either an elective or in place of physical education, Tripplett said.

Informational mailers will be sent to students in the district during the summer, he said.

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