(COVINGTON, La.) One of the oldest Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) programs in the state will not be registering for reenlistment at the conclusion of the St. Paul’s school year.
The school administration feels strongly about the program leaving, wishing it could stay and continue the tradition that began on campus in 1969.
“The program is leaving St. Paul’s because the Air Force has determined that the Junior ROTC program here is not viable,” St. Paul’s Principal Trevor Watkins said. “By that we mean in order to have an Air Force JROTC unit, we must have a certain number of students involved in the program. And that number can be one of two things — you have to have 10 percent of your student body enrolled or have 100 students. Our program, has hovered between 45 and 50 students for the last several years. For us to have 10 percent of our students involved, that’s a number of around 70 to 75 students.”
“They threatened to shut us down three or four years ago, so we took a step back in a hope that in that time we could get more students involved in the program,” Watkins said.
“We have not managed to get more students involved despite Sarge’s (MSgt. A.J. East) best efforts. So it is not by choice. We desperately wanted to keep the program. We think it is a viable part of our school. As as a former cadet myself, it’s with great sadness that we sign over its closing,” Watkins said.
Stephen Millet, who was named Overall Outstanding Cadet in 2018, has plans to continue some of the responsibilities of AFJROTC into the school in other ways.
“The general plan that Mr. Watkins proposed was to team up with another service club, like Student Council or Key Club, and kind of work inside of that to do the things AFJROTC is normally responsible for, like the Veterans Day assembly and the Color Guards at football games,” Millet said. “It will be like a club inside of a club and will probably have a parent moderator for it. I’ve been talking to Josh Rovira and Hyde Healy, the presidents of Student Council and Key Club for which one will help us carry this on.”
MSgt. A.J. East will be leaving St. Paul’s with the program, and students are saddened by his leaving.
“He truly is the best teacher I’ve had at the school, and I am sad that other students don’t get the same experiences I had,” Millet said.
MSgt. East will also miss St. Paul’s.
“The thing I will miss most is watching the cadets grow from being boys to young men and becoming the leaders of the future,” East said.
MSgt. East will continue to teach AFJROTC at East Jefferson High School in Metairie next school year.