Brother Martin, Ursuline join in JROTC program

By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald

Beginning in fall 2019, Brother Martin High School and Ursuline Academy joined forces in Brother Martin’s Navy Junior ROTC, a school leadership and scholarship program.

While it is the only all-female Catholic high school to offer Junior ROTC, all other Navy Junior ROTC programs have cross enrollment of boys and girls, said Commander Bruce Nolan, USN (Ret) who has been with Brother Martin for six years and is a graduate who returned to teach. He was in Junior ROTC while in high school. He said Brother Martin’s program is the only JROTC in the area.

“I worked my whole career with females, and I thought it was a good opportunity to have girls in Junior ROTC,” Commander Nolan said. “I decided to reach out to all-female schools, and Ursuline responded. Ursuline is supportive and trying to work out logistics.”

Four students responded when he spoke at an assembly/activities fair.

“We’re really excited about this,” Ursuline’s Christy Zurcher said. “It’s a great opportunity for Brother Martin and Ursuline.”

Dates locally to late 1960s

The Navy Junior ROTC program began in 1966 nationally and at Brother Martin’s precurser –  St. Aloysius – in 1967, making it one of the oldest in country, Commander Nolan said. The program averages from 85 to 100 students.

It is run through the Department of the Navy and has federal funding with rules. The majority of Junior ROTCs nationwide have even numbers of boys and girls, although one in Guam is all-male.  One requirement of all cadets is to wear their uniform once a week all day at school. That has been a little tricky this first semester for Ursuline girls, since female uniforms have been coming from Slidell High School, Commander Nolan said.

“We finally have fitted uniforms and have had three uniform inspections at Ursuline Academy,” Commander Nolan said. “We have been slowly bringing them up, so they haven’t been involved in any activities (with us).”

Junior ROTC is a year-long elective for Brother Martin students, with much of the coursework being done online. This makes it easier for Ursuline to participate in the program, currently an extracurricular there.

He said Brother Martin’s Navy Junior ROTC members do as many as 1,000 community service hours, including assisting at community  events such as volunteering at Chalmette Battlefield, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and  American Society for Suicide Prevention.

Commander Nolan does a summer training program for a week at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, for JROTCs in five states. Several girls have expressed interest.

“We’re hoping next semester we will have more opportunities to do things together,” he said. “They are working toward developing their leadership skills.”

The recruits are currently training to participate in a Jan. 15 annual military inspection at Brother Martin.

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