Allen B. West

NY Councilman sees JROTC “students of color” as fuel for “war machine”

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In my book Guardian of the Republic I write about JROTC instructors at Grady High School who had an unforgettable impact on my life: Lieutenant Colonel Pagonis, Major Heredia, Master Sergeant Buchanan, and Sergeant First Class McMichael. These four men had all served in combat in Korea and Vietnam – and as a matter of fact MSG Buchanan had been a Vietnam POW. These men taught us about leadership, discipline, honor, duty to country, integrity, and personal responsibility. For some students, these men were important male role models.

And so I find the actions and words of one Councilman Daniel Dromm, a New York City Queens Democrat, deplorable. Dromm, who is the head of the City Council’s Education Committee wants to shoot down the school system’s Junior ROTC programs — charging they’re training high-school students for a “war machine.” “I always wondered why these programs are mainly in schools with students of color,” he said last week during a City Hall hearing, as reported by the New York Post.

“I have concerns about the way they go about recruitment. It contributes to a war machine, and I have some problems with that.” Schools officials were taken aback — can you imagine what would have been said if a Republican said such?

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You see, progressive socialists like Dromm don’t believe in the equality of opportunity and developing young people to be personally responsible. He, as well as his cohorts, prefer an equality of outcomes where kids — especially in inner city schools — are trapped in failing programs that promote their dependence. In fact, less than 20 percent of young people involved in High School JROTC go on to join the U.S. Military — but they do learn invaluable skills.

“I really have a problem with … them being there. It sends a message to kids about armed forces and their policies, what happens when they move forward with college,” he said. Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights, also called on the city to end its support of the federally subsidized program. The city pays the instructors who teach the courses.

Supporters of the program were quick to return fire. “That’s probably the most ridiculous comment I’ve heard in a couple of years,” said Richard Gogarty, a former Army sergeant who now teaches at Francis Lewis High in Queens. Students in Gogarty’s JROTC program are offered classes in subjects including leadership and public speaking. No military subjects, like tactical maneuvers, are taught. Gogarty estimates 99 percent of his students go on to college and only 3 percent join the armed forces afterward.

The New York Post reports that students are firing back at the Queens legislator’s claim. “JROTC has nothing to do with the war,” said Vasu Sharma, 16, who attends Queens’ Francis Lewis HS. “We are being trained to be the leaders of tomorrow.” Sharma is one of about 3,000 students from 14 high schools involved in JROTC, which teaches students leadership skills, global awareness and basic military knowledge. No military service commitment is required.

Why would Councilman Dromm disagree with growing the future leaders of America? Why wouldn’t he want these young people to develop vital skills such as public speaking and management? I suppose Dromm reflects the sentiments of the NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The primary reason why I established The Allen West Foundation was to raise funds and assist in supporting the High School JROTC programs across America. This is a vital program, along with Navy Sea Cadets and the Young Marines. We must invest in the future of our country, and that means preparing the next generation of American leadership.

There is no better programs out there these to accomplish those goal and objectives. High School JROTC did very well by me and I am sure there are many of you out there who participated in the program. I enjoy traveling and speaking to these Cadets wherever I am, and showing them the difference that program made in the life of this “student of color.”

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