REDLANDS - Tre Jones has aspirations for a military career after graduating from Redlands High School.

But to really experience if that is what he truly wants to do, Tre joined the school's JROTC program, which teaches leadership skills.

Since joining at the start of his sophomore year, the 15-year-old has found it to be an experience never to forget.

The program, established on the Terrier campus in 2000, is the only one of its kind in the Redlands Unified School District.

The program is required to have at least 100 cadets enrolled by October of every school year.

Since its inception, more than 12,000 students have joined, with some completing the four-year program, while others have only completed a portion.

Currently, the program has three seniors who are on the road to completing the four years required. Many - like Tre - have joined the program and have plans to keep with it until graduation day.

"I knew about the program last year, but I really didn't gain an interest in it until mid-last year because of job realization and the things I wanted to do in life," Tre said. "So I joined ROTC because of my interest in the military and out of respect for the military. I just wanted to get a jump start on what I would be learning in the military."

The school's ROTC curriculum follows guidelines set by the Air Force. But it's not a recruiting tool.

"A small percentage of (JROTC) students actually enlist in the military," said Air Force Maj. Stuart Takahara, adviser for the RHS program. "The curriculum is aimed toward creating better citizens for America...not necessarily preparing them for the military."

Teaching how to be a leader is one of the main points of the program, as well as following orders, especially when first entering the program.

The JROTC program is a seventh-period class at RHS, but there are some extra-curriculum activities that students can participate in. However, they aren't mandatory, Takahara said.

An example would be the color guard.

The school has two drill teams - one armed and one not - and one color guard.

"We have some cadets who are really involved in the program," Takahara said. "Those 30 or so students are very, very active. Also, sports is a big thing in our unit.

"When I got here, right off the bat they looked forward to participating and they're really good. They often go off and compete against other units in games such as basketball, flag football and various competitions."

In his five years with the Terriers, Takahara has seen many students graduate and embark on careers in and out of the military.

"I see a wide variety of success stories from students that graduate from the program and went off to the Air Force Academy and they are doing great," he said. "And to the others on the other side of the coin, these are students who took the program but where they went off to will surprise you.

"Sometimes you can't guess what these students are going to do. One student went on to college and (later) grad school to earn a Ph.D., and I could've sworn this young man was not the kind of person who was going to do that, but they did it and wow, it's incredible."

Tre said he plans to enlist after he graduates from college. He also plans to make the military his career, focusing on military intelligence.

But right now, he's focused on continuing with the program and encouraging others to do.

JROTC "looks amazing on your transcripts and your resume," he said. "It shows that you have discipline, a high, high respect and that you're able to juggle many things, like your grades.

"I think one of the biggest things you gain ...is the good friendships.

"And it's really cool."


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