800 JROTC Cadets hold centennial ball at Trade Center

Ben Wright


An estimated 600 to 800 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets are in Columbus Saturday for the 2016 Lighthouse Brigade JROTC Centennial Honor Dinner and Ball.

 Retired Army Lt. Col. Roger Barros, director of Army instruction for the Muscogee County School District, said cadets from 15 high schools, including eight from Columbus, will observe the 100th anniversary of JROTC worldwide at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. With the theme “Honoring those that have served,” U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of the 2nd Congressional District is the guest speaker for the event.

The night starts with an honor dinner for about 75 cadets at 6:30 p.m. before the military ball gets under way at 7:45 p.m. Barros said 10 inductees of the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame will be honored at the event.

 Since last year, Barros said the JROTC program has a bigger identity than in years past. With reorganization of the program, Barros won approval to name the Muscogee County program the Lighthouse Brigade. It is taken from the symbol of the Muscogee County School District.

Under the change, each school has a battalion and its own name to make up the program. Barros said he also oversees programs in Stewart and Chattahoochee counties.

 While the program is mandatory at Chattahoochee County, it is offered as an elective in Muscogee County with a focus on four [JUMP]core values. They include leadership, scholarship, patriotism and character.

 “Everything you do in school, in the community is based on those values,” Barros said.

 The program in Muscogee County usually has about 1,300 students, but it experienced a surge to about 1,500 this year. The mission of the program is to motivate young people to be better citizens.

 Most of the cadets work on map reading, conflict resolution, citizenship, constitution, drilling ceremonies, wearing the uniform and formations.

 “The uniform is not just to put awards on,” Barros said. “It’s the attention to detail.”

 The ideal cadet for the program joins during his or her freshman year in high school. Each year, the cadet gets more rank and responsibility.

- “By the time you are a senior, you could be the high-ranking kids in the battalion, a commander,” he said. “Like the military, it is a pyramid.”