Cadet Col. Michael Roper, 17, practices spinning his rifle Tuesday outside Clovis High School. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
As a sophomore at Clovis High School, Michael Roper enrolled in a course he thought was about aircraft and flight.
He didn’t know he’d be wearing a uniform and embarking on a military career.
The course turned out to be the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
“When I decided to take it (class), I didn’t know it was ROTC,” Roper said. “I thought it was just about flight and the military, but I decided to go with it.”
As a result, Roper, 17, has enlisted in the Marine Reserves and starts basic training in June in San Diego.
Not all JROTC students enlist in the military, according to retired Air Force Col. Philip Frazee, who teaches the JROTC class at Clovis High School. “It’s about 50-50,” he said. The objective of class is not to solicit young recruits but “to build better citizens for America,” he explained.
Junior Reserve Officers classes at CHS meet every day for an hour and a half, and students can earn one credit in communication skills, Frazee explained. Sophomores learn about the history of flight, juniors study the science of flight, and seniors, such as Roper, are taught about space exploration, he noted.
Students in the JROTC classes also do community service, Roper explained, such as roadside and stadium cleanup.
Once a month, JROTC students visit Cannon Air Force Base, where they fly in the F-16 simulators and learn about military gear, according to Frazee.
Capt. Andre Kok of Cannon Public Affairs said JROTC has visited for as long as he can remember.
“We support JROTC and give them (students) a firsthand look at military operations. We’re excited to have them,” Kok said.
With a 3.5 grade point average, Roper serves as the corps commander and doesn’t have to take tests like the other 90 CHS students enrolled in the class. He also works for Frazee as his teaching assistant.
Roper participates in JROTC competitions, and recently placed second place in an individual drill competition at the Texas Tech University Invitational JROTC Drill Meet.
Roper said he is looking forward to basic training.
“I’m excited but nervous.”
He wants to join the military police and would eventually like to attend Eastern New Mexico University.
And he’ll also have an extra stripe when he completes basic training, which he wouldn’t have without JROTC.
Asked what his parents think of him in uniform, Roper said, “They think I look sharp.”