JROTC, Military Indoctrination and the Training of Mass Killers

By Pat Elder, February 16, 2018

Nikolas Cruz, the south Florida shooter, was enrolled in the Army’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program as a 9th grader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Army taught Cruz to shoot lethal weapons at a very young and impressionable age.

Few in America have connected the dots between military indoctrination and firearms instruction on the one hand, and the propensity for training mass killers, whether their crimes are committed as enlisted soldiers in atrocities overseas or in American high schools.

Let’s examine the JROTC program and the militarization of Florida’s schools as a contributing factor to the Parkland massacre. When Cruz was apprehended he was wearing his JROTC polo shirt, sending a message to the world of his affiliation with the military program.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School practice in the school’s firing range.

There are 1,600 American high schools that enroll students in military-run marksmanship programs, teaching children as young as 13 to shoot lethal weapons. It’s probably not the wisest public policy. The kids shoot .177 caliber lead pellets at 600 feet per second using CO2 propelled rifles. The Daisy Avanti 887, a cousin of Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB gun, is classified as a lethal weapon by the Army. Florida, along with a dozen other states, specifically prohibits carrying pellet guns into high schools, although the prohibition does not extend to the military. Pellet rifles are extremely dangerous and some are powerful enough to kill a boar.

Good guns and bad guns?

It must be confusing to the 13-year-old mind. Broward County Schools has a strict anti-gun policy in place. The school system classifies pellet rifles as a “Class A” weapons, along with a variety of rifles, hand guns, and shotguns.

The use of lead projectiles in the nation’s high schools also threatens public health by spewing minute lead articulate matter into the air and on the floor at the muzzle end of the gun and at the target backstops.  Children track the deadly particulates throughout the building. There is a linkage between firing pellet rifles indoors and elevated blood lead levels among participants.

JROTC programs in Florida and elsewhere were once plagued by low enrollment numbers which threatened to shut down the program. The military responded with a robust lobbying effort directed at states, aiming to allow students to satisfy normal, for-credit course requirements by taking the JROTC elective. Florida is most friendly to the military in this regard. The state allows students enrolled in JROTC to satisfy the curricular requirements of physical education, biology, physical science, art, and life management. JROTC is regarded as an Advanced Placement course. Students earn 6 Quality Points toward their weighted GPA.

Many of these courses are taught by retired enlisted soldiers with no teaching credentials and little or no college education. Meanwhile, Broward schools require teachers to hold teacher certification and most must have a Master’s degree after a certain period of time.

JROTC programs in US schools are run by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. The school shooting programs are regulated by the Civilian Marksmanship Program, (CMP). The program was set up by Congress after the Spanish-American War to ensure that large numbers of Americans knew how shoot guns in the event of a war. The CMP is now a private entity with $160 million in assets. It sells discarded military rifles, pistols, and ammunition to the American public at the behest of Congress. The CMP downplays the health and safety concerns of the robust shooting program.

Each branch has its own curriculum and textbooks that teach a dangerous and reactionary version of American history. The US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki to save a million American lives. The North Vietnamese fired on an innocent American warship in the Gulf of Tonkin.  History is taught as a kind of American Fait Accompli. American exceptionalism and the use of force as an instrument of foreign policy are enshrined values, next to accepting one’s place in the chain of command. The civics textbook has a unit entitled, “You the People” rather than “We the People.”  Schools exercise no curricular oversight. School districts across the country are allowing this intellectual straightjacket of a program to substitute for the arts. In addition, Broward’s schools host several dozen other military programs that work with the recruiting command to provide leads for recruiters. The military has also infiltrated the social media networks of high school children.

JROTC members frequently wear their uniforms to school and receive praise from their classmates, like the American reflex to support our troops. The Stoneman Douglas High School Marksmanship Program will be advancing to the Florida State championships this spring. Marksman 1st Lieutenant Diaz took first place in the standing rifle event during the last regional competition! It’s a big deal.

Children participate in shooting programs at tournaments hosted by the CMP and supported by the NRA.

The JROTC program is highly respected at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. All proceeds from the sale of the school’s branded products at the school’s “company store” help fund the JROTC battalion. Revenues from pizza sales also finance the JROTC program. The Stoneman High JROTC Military Ball will be held on April 21st this year at the Marriot Heron Bay. Nikolas Cruz won’t be there.

Nikolas Cruz is apprehended wearing his Stoneman HS JROTC polo shirt.

23 Comments

  1. Zachary dent says:

    It’s not the jrotc program or the rifle it’s about the person that uses the rifle to get an advantage over people,the program of all rotc units is supposed to make better citizens not trained killers,so if the rotc program does exactly that they should be shutdown and the instructers jailed

  2. Henry Lowendorf says:

    jROTC is intended to promote involvement in and support for the US military, which by the way invades dozens of countries across the globe and murders civilians, families, communities and destroys cultures and whole countries that pose no threat to the USA. Talk about mass killings!

  3. Dyana Prewitt says:

    By my calculations, looking only at the 10 high school shootings this year, I’ve found that 6 ot the 10 have JROTC programs. Working with public numbers as to how many high schools we have and how many JROTC programs, my numbers show that a school with a JROTC program is 14 times more likely ro experience a mass shooting than those that don’t

  4. I only read about first 2 or 3 paragraphs. I can’t believe you managed to expand your opinion farther than that. Not only is it wrong, extremely wrong, but honestly stupid. It’s apparent you have no prior knowledge or experience with any part of the subject you wrote about.
    JROTC is intended as a step program for those planning to join the military, officer or enlisted. Boy Scouts also have many things in common with JROTC.

    Our military only gets involved in conflicts over seas when human rights violations have been grossly used in a country. Like their government killing civilians with mustard gas or a genocide.

    • I think we’re reading different history books, George.

    • jim wohlgemuth says:

      As a Vietnam Veteran my personal experience can tell you that no George we do not get involved when human rights have been violated…. we violate human rights and the Vietnamese suffer today because of the agent orange and the unexploded ordinance that still kills and maims today.

  5. Wow. You have absolutely no clue about how the military works. It’s obvious you have no experience in either military or law enforcement setting… but let’s not let anything as subject matter experience get in the way of your emotionally driven rant. I mean after all, you’re working every angle for this article, aren’t you? We’ve got unfriendly to the environment, military=”trained killer” and to top it all off it has everything to do with guns, guns, “GUNS!”.
    It’s like a Progressive sandwich.

    The media used to Pride itself on his responsibility to the citizens for getting the story. But nowadays it just seems like the media focuses on asking its viewers what flavor they like their stories served up as.
    Stop being part of the problem.

    • I’ve served as a GI rights counselor. We have a recruited force. 40% drop out before their first term is done. We need to seriously rethink our military.

  6. Jrotc does not create killers… I’ve been in rotc for 4 years and have been on my schools marksmanship team… this post is (excuse my language) bullshit. Just because one 19 year old person was not mentally healthy and happened to be in Jrotc, it does not mean that Jrotc curriculum creates mass murders. Jrotc has taught me to be the best citizen I can be, to stand up for myself to people like you, to talk in front of 200 people, and to be the best leader I can be. This post is sickening. And creates a bad word for Jrotc. Don’t blame Jrotc… blame the person. Don’t blame the AR-15…blame the person. Jrotc doesnt teach weapon handling, it teaches citizenship and discipline. A cadet like the shooter in fact would be kicked out of my unit after his first suspension. So please stop trying to blame things like guns and Jrotc. Because the real blame should be put on the shooter.

  7. gloria garcia says:

    instead of preparing kids to go to endless war, let us train them to be good citizens without guns.

    • What? You aren’t preparing kids for war! JROTC is not a military training or recruiting program, it is a program that creates good citizens. Instead of jumping to conclusions with no knowledge of what JROTC is learn the facts then speak.

    • Agreed. Thanks for commenting!

  8. we invade other countries over lies.

  9. ROTFLMAO!!!
    That was sarcasm, right?

  10. Nicole, you say you have learned marksmanship, how to speak, how to lead. You also say you have learned good citizenship.I am curious how you would define a good citizen.
    Markmanship, eloquence and the ability to lead are certainly valuable tools for a demagogue… but not the first requisites for a good citizen of a proud democracy. I suggest these may be more important: The ability to think clearly, to care about your species and the planet,and to understand that at this point in our history we are not Americans, Russians and North Koreans….we are simply humans who may, or may not, learn to survive together. With all good for your continued education.

  11. At the end of the day, all we have are worthless opinions. Great job Nicole!

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