Operation Good Citizen


Local JROTC Program Prepares Area Students for Life After Graduation

The United States Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) is one of the largest character development and citizenship programs for youth in the world. It is
congressionally mandated that each military service must have a JROTC program to, “instill in the students the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment.”

JROTC’s mission: “To motivate young people to be better citizens.” This mission statement is the guidepost for the program’s success.

In 1995, retired Master Sergeant David Edlin, Jr. and his wife Carol relocated to Grayson, Kentucky, where he was hired to begin East Carter High School’s first JROTC program. Master Sgt. Edlin had previously spent 21 years in active-duty military service with the United States Army, serving his last three years at the University of Nevada teaching Senior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (SROTC).

“I must first give credit to Lieutenant Colonel Roger Gillum. He was the father of both East Carter High School’s and West Carter High School’s JROTC programs,” Edlin said.
According to Edlin, Lt. Col. Gillum was the individual who initially fought to get the program approved through the United States Army Cadet Command (USACC) – a government organization which partners with universities and high schools to recruit, educate, train, and commission leaders of character for the total army, and to help develop accomplished, responsible citizens who value service to their country.

Shortly after both Carter County programs were approved, Edlin was hired as the Senior Army Instructor (SAI) at ECHS to build the program from the ground up. Colonel Ralf Newman joined Edlin in his efforts and together they began the extremely rewarding yet pain- staking process of building ECHS’s first JROTC program.

“We started with virtually nothing,” said Edlin.   “There wasn’t a desk or a typewriter.”
Edlin’s wife had been his supply clerk while stationed in Reno, Nevada, so she knew how to order supplies and uniforms.

“We spent months gathering items, ordering supplies, and buying books for the cadets – a term used to describe students in the program. “We had no supply room at first and the office was packed to the brim. That first year was quite an adventure.”

During the program’s second year, Edlin and Newman began teaching JROTC at both ECHS and WCHS. “Col. Newman and I were workaholics,” Edlin said. “We had to cover both programs at both high schools until we’d moved forward a little more in the process.”
The third year, Honor Guard was introduced  to  the  program. The students began assisting local veteran groups with conducting military funerals. “Sometimes we assisted two funerals per day,” said Edlin. “We did our best to instill discipline and respect throughout our program. Participating in things like this helped do just that.”

As the program grew, so did the opportunity to participate in regional JROTC competitions.
“Our program was tops everywhere we went, and it was a requirement that my students learned to compete the right and honest way, and we were going to help everybody else achieve the same way,” said Edlin.

After lots of hard work, Edlin and his cadets became famous for their impeccable competition skills as well as for their character display before, during, and after competition.
“We made it a priority to lend our equipment to other teams in need no matter what we were doing,” said Edlin. “Doing what’s right with honesty and integrity while also putting our best effort forward, is what we strove to teach both on and off the competition field.”

Edlin repeatedly emphasized to his students that they were going to walk away with an honest first place or an honest fifth place. “I’d rather have an honest 10th place than a dishonest first place,” Edlin said.

As a result of their hard work and good sportsmanship combined, Edlin and his students took first place every year for 13 years in a row in the Lawrence County, Kentucky, competition.
In 2013, Edlin left the program after a series of health issues forced him into full-time retirement. Though the program has been under the care of several instructors since, retired Sergeant Major Eric Jude and retired Sergeant First Class David Morris are the current army instructors overseeing the ECHS JROTC program today.

Sgt. Maj. Jude and Sgt. 1st Class Morris continue to lead their cadets in Raider and Drill competitions across the region. Raider competitions emphasize teamwork, collective skills, and physical agility. Drill competitions highlight the time-honored tradition of army drill – a ceremony dating back to colonial times.

“We continue to participate in these competition categories in order to instill pride for country, discipline, and attention to detail while working as a team,” said Jude.

Other ceremonies the ECHS JROTC cadets perform are Color Guard and Honor Guard. Color Guard is performed at home athletic events where honor and respect are rendered for the United States of America by presenting the colors of the nation using the U.S. flag. Honor Guard assists veteran groups with military funerals by providing six pallbearers and a six-person firing detail.

Going forward, Jude and Morris wish to continue teaching and facilitating positive learning environments where the time-honored traditions that have instilled pride, discipline, and character in students across space and time, will grow and continue.

“It’s our goal to be the best examples we can while teaching our cadets to have a sense of personal accomplishment,” Jude said.

“By equipping them with the skills, abilities, and values JROTC offers, we hope to foster success that leads to better citizenship in their communities and facilitates character in their personal relationships. A combination of both is needed in life.”

This year, the ECHS JROTC program will continue to compete in regional Drill competitions in efforts to attend the Army JROTC Drill Nationals held in Daytona Beach, Florida, April 2022.