ANSBACH, GERMANY -- As the Senior Army Instructor of the 9th JROTC Battalion of Ansbach Middle High School, my co-teacher, Master Sergeant (Retired) Christopher Buchanan, the Army Instructor (AI) and I had to quickly adapt to the reality of teaching virtually. Last February, we had less than a week to learn to teach remotely via Google Classroom and to adapt our lessons to virtual learning. This was a bit of a challenge because much of the cadets’ learning is hands-on; they are taught life skills and teamwork which are fundamental to success.
Students continued to do many of the same activities that they would have done in class such as the final promotion board of the year organized and conducted by our top cadet leaders. The board helped build self-esteem and was excellent practice for job interviews. Additionally, third and fourth year students wrote and presented speeches to the 1st and 2nd year students who learned how to critique the presenters using a rubric.
The cadet staff continued to have their weekly staff meetings with an emphasis on taking care of their fellow cadets’ mental and physical well-being. Cadet Collin Robertson stated, “The AI gave us events to keep us in shape throughout the quarantine. We participated in community virtual runs, the Body Armor Challenge honoring Navy Seal Michael Murphy, and we did preparation drills and work out videos to keep us in shape during our virtual class. Without that it would be easy to fall into unhealthy habits.”
Although there was no drill team, the AI had cadets conducting drill during class. Cadet Kyle Trehern enjoyed this, “I think virtual drill was an interesting experience. We did it in class with things we could find around the house such as broomsticks and mops instead of an exhibition rifle. I think it was a good learning experience. I was able to keep up with a sport I like while helping others do the same.”
The battalion ended the year with their greatly anticipated annual military ball. In spite of remote learning, each cadet received a copy of the ball program which highlighted the unprecedented virtual event. Many students had speaking parts, which were rehearsed remotely. National awards and senior recognition gifts were mailed to parents ahead of time with instructions to present to their son or daughter during the appropriate segment of the ball. A cadet’s parent, a military member, who lives in the United States was the guest speaker. One cadet set up the “Missing Man” table at his home and lit the candle and paid tribute to POWs and those Missing in Action. Another cadet created a slideshow to highlight the battalion’s accomplishments throughout the year and to honor the Seniors. Cadets continued the honored tradition of toasts and reciting the Cadet Creed. One benefit of the virtual ball was that the previous battalion commander who moved after the first semester of school, was able to attend. Reflecting on the virtual military ball, Cdt/SGT Gabrielle Hursey stated, “It was a new experience; when we have a real one, I’ll know how it’s going to work and I’ll be more appreciative of the opportunity of seeing everyone in person.”
Most parents and students were pleased with the virtual classes. Cadet Dylan Palmer when discussing last year's virtual school said, “For the first time when handling an environment like this, it worked well, for example providing students with Chromebooks or the ability to do such sets Ansbach apart.” The 9th JROTC Battalion proved the incredible value of a JROTC program by working together as a team, implementing strong leadership skills, and overcoming unforeseen challenges. These are the skills JROTC cadets learn whether in a brick or mortar classroom or via remote virtual learning.