APRIL 19, 2017, GREAT LAKES (NNS) – Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., commander, U.S. Pacific Command and the first four-star Admiral who participated in Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC), served as the Reviewing Officer (RO) for recruit graduation, April 14.
Speaking to the newest Sailors at graduation, Harris said, “I’m deeply honored to participate in this most important ceremony. This is a special day for me. You see, in 1938, nearly eight decades ago, with America on the brink of war, my father passed through this very crucible. He went on to serve in World War II and in Korea, and to retire in 1958 as a Chief Petty Officer. He never forgot what he learned in Recruit Training; he never forgot his time in the Navy, and neither will you.”
Harris, who graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, in Pensacola, Florida in 1974, participated in the NJROTC program for three years and attained the highest rank that can routinely be attained: Cadet Commander, which at the time had a collar device of four attached gold bars. Harris went on to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated and was commissioned as an Ensign in 1978.
“NJROTC gave me structure and an understanding of the Navy,” said Harris. “It also got me interested in the Naval Academy. I applied to go to Annapolis and got accepted. When I went to Annapolis, the hardest part of the academy experience is plebe summer. All those things that Annapolis tries to instill in young men and women who were coming from the civilian world into the military, I had already learned in NJROTC.”
Harris added NJROTC was a big change for him. “It put discipline in my life,” he said. “I had three instructors, two lieutenant commanders and one chief petty officer. I learned perseverance and attitude from them, especially from the chief. I took what they taught and exposed me to into my Navy career.”
Harris was also able to meet with current NJROTC cadets from Zion-Benton Township High School in Zion, Illinois and their Senior Naval Science Instructor (SNSI), who were in attendance to observe recruit graduation.
“It was a great opportunity for some of my cadets to speak to the Admiral and especially those wanting to follow his route through the Naval Academy,” said retired Navy Cmdr. Steve Schulte, SNSI at Zion-Benton. “The admiral also told the NJROTC cadets that even if they choose not to go the military route, the program will still help them succeed in life.”
Harris was not the only former NJROTC cadet at recruit graduation. Capt. Michael S. Garrick, commanding officer of Recruit Training Command (RTC), also fondly remembers his time as a cadet.
“My experience with NJROTC at Orange Park High School gave me a lot of tools I still rely on today,” said Garrick. “Our Naval Science Instructors set high standards for us and challenged us to pursue our goals. I learned a lot about leadership and mentorship in NJROTC.”
Harris said he really enjoyed NJROTC and the opportunity to travel. “It was a very exciting time for a young man growing up in Pensacola in the early 1970s. Overall, I am very proud of my association with NJROTC.”
NJROTC, founded in 1964, is a citizenship development program that instills in high school students and in U.S. secondary educational institutions the value of citizenship and service to the United States. The program is currently under the direction of Rear Adm. Stephen C. Evans and his NSTC staff, headquartered on Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill. and includes 573 units worldwide.
In addition to regular classroom instruction, NJROTC cadets participate in a number of extra-curricular activities throughout the school year and during the summer months that are designed to stimulate learning by hands-on experiences and to reinforce the program’s curriculum. Cadet extra-curricular activities include community service projects, drill competitions, academic competitions, visits to naval installations, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training.
The NSTC command oversees 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy. This includes the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) at more than 160 colleges and universities, Officer Training Command (OTCN) on Naval Station Newport, R.I., Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp, at Great Lakes, Ill., as well as NJROTC.
By Michael F. Miller, Naval Service Training Command Public Affairs