Being a Platoon Sergeant for two years and a Platoon Commander for one year in a Marine Corps JROTC program has enlightened me on several key aspects of leadership and structure in regards to operation.
JROTC key sections of education are: Everyday knowledge, Physical Training, Marksmanship, Drill, and Proper Wearing of Uniform.
Everyday knowledge includes subjects such as: Military history, preparing to apply for a job, military law, rank structure, leadership, and other subjects pertaining to the military in general.
PT, or physical training, is almost always based off the YPFT, or Yearly Physical Fitness Test. The main components of this test include crunches, pull-ups, and a 1.5 mile run. Each category is separated and to receive a 100 in each subject, one must complete 100 crunches in 2 minutes, 20 pull-ups and a 9-minute mile-and-a-half.
As a platoon commander or sergeant, your goals for improving your cadets’ physical fitness should be one of your biggest priorities. Physical training should be conducted at the very least two times a week. In a normal PT session, cadets should be learning how much they need to improve and in what category they should be improving in. A normal 45-minute PT session should include Cardiovascular exercises, such as running, jumping jacks, eight count body builders etc. as well as upper body exercises, such as 4 count push ups, pull-ups and squad pushups. A session should also include core exercises such as crunches, planks, leg lifts, and calisthenics.
When conducting platoon exercises, it is very important for a leader to demonstrate superior fitness and confidence. A leader always must lead from the front and show his/her men their level of dedication. A perfect platoon pt session is a platoon run; it encourages team work, enforces confidence in the leader and strengthens a unit’s bond. A platoon commander or sergeant will form up his men and run in formation calling cadences. Calling cadence with absolute authority and confidence is vital in motivating your subordinates. Practice alone in preparation if you have a weak cadence voice. Subordinates will be reassured of your ability to command when you demonstrate confidence in calling cadences and performing the same exact exercises that you require your cadets to do with ease.
Everyday knowledge is important as it develops individuals and prepares them for the real world when they exit their high school JROTC program. Most schools will be provided with a text book and quizzed on sections weekly. This is a good schedule as it allows time for study, PT, and uniform inspections. Quizzes are given by your Senior Instructor or Junior Instructor, how ever as a platoon sergeant or commander you must go beyond, as your cadets’ success is your responsibility. Give homework, and provide incentives and punishment for either completion or failure of the given task. If your company has an important inspection coming up, give your cadets a study guide built around commonly asked questions by instructors. Put in the effort to show your subordinates that you are serious and dedicated to the program, their loyalty will come with it.Grade home work, make the cadets that failed to complete your task pay by increased PT and less freedoms etc.
Marksmanship is an important aspect of any JROTC program. As platoon commander or sergeant your responsibility entails they are well trained in safety, accuracy, and efficient technique. Although most cadets are not trained by they platoon commander or sergeant, demonstrating that you have a developed understand of advanced marksmanship technique is vital to setting the example.
Drill is a huge part of what JROTC teaches and is usually the main component to any JROTC competition or meet. As platoon commander or sergeant you will be drilling your platoon armed and unarmed in everyday scenarios, while better commanders will be leading them in competitions. As some cadets have been platoon commanders/sergeants and drill commanders, their skills have been well developed.
As a commander, you must inspire your cadets and give them incentive to try as hard as they can. This means when the team gets together at 5:30 in the morning before school, you waste no time talking. You use your most experienced cadets to teach brand-new cadets the basics. Once everyone is on the same page, lead with absolute authority. The worst thing a commander can do is sink down to a level where everyone is treated the same.
As an officer, do no allow any engagement of small talk or fooling around during practice. As an NCO your job is to provide a link between enlisted and officer cadets, meaning you will have a much greater connection on a personal level with most enlisted cadets, how ever ensure they recognize your leadership role. During practice ensure you have a loud and confident command voice. As said before, put in the effort. Practice on weekends, inviting all cadets to attend with permission from your instructor to use drill rifles outside of school. Perfect your technique and pass down your knowledge to all of those who do not possess the same amount of proficiency.
Uniform inspection is conducted once a week on average and is a large portion of a cadet’s grade. To prepare one’s cadets, a commander should always ensure before hand that each cadet knows the regulations and personally contact cadets that seem to be lacking in motivation and ensure they’re ready. Offering free haircuts and spray paint for ranks should be implemented somehow into your program.
These general guidelines should help ensure you can operate any JROTC program at maximum efficiency on any level of leadership.