The U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) started in 1916. According to Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Donald B. Spice, Director of Army Instruction for Indianapolis Public Schools, the JROTC programs in IPS dates back nearly as far. “The first JROTC program in IPS was established in September of 1919,” Spice said. This was at Arsenal Technical High School, which itself used to be a U.S. Civil War Arsenal.

The program has had its enrollment ups and downs, as attitudes toward organizations associated with the military changed over time. For example, In 1967 Broad Ripple’s JROTC enrollment was so low it was almost forced to disband, but an American Legion campaign helped increase membership. By 1990-1991 Broad Ripple’s JROTC was so strong again that it was named best in the city. The IPS JROTC program is healthy right now, with enrollment for this school year increasing to 800.

However, JROTC is not a recruitment tool and teaches far more than military subjects. Instructors teach ethics, citizenship, communications and leadership skills. And cadets are encouraged to pursue their education wherever that might lead. “We also strive to teach sound organizational and study skills that will prepare our cadets to be ready to take their place in society,” Spice said.

The histories of some JROTC graduates show that.

One of the most famous is Retired Major General Harry W. Brooks, who graduated Crispus Attucks High School in 1947 as an officer in the JROTC, which led to an extremely successful military, academic and civilian career.

During his career he rose from private all the way to major general, becoming the sixth African-American general in U.S. history. He completed a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Program. He attended the United States War College from 1969-1970 and while there coauthored The Gathering Storm: An Analysis of Racial Instability Within the Army.

He served at the Pentagon as Army Director of Equal Opportunity Programs. And as commanding general of the 25thInfantry Division in Hawaii, he asserted his belief in the power of education by ordering 10,000 men to return to school to complete high school or associate degrees.
After his military career, Brooks was successful in business as an executive vice-president of a land development company in Hawaii, a founder of a marketing corporation, and as Chairman of an international trading company.

Joseph Duke graduated from Arsenal Tech in 1997, and JROTC “helped me get through tough times,” he said. “I was very competitive, and it was the challenge I needed.” Duke went on to a successful career in the army as a pilot and one day hopes to fly commercially.

The Army JROTC program will turn 100 years old in 2016, and the IPS JROTC will be 96 years old at the end of this current school year. We’re proud of the almost 100 years of cadets who have been helped by the historic IPS JROTC program. We’re even more proud that those cadets have gone on to touch the lives of so many others!