Lt. Col. Richard Callahan

Lt. Col. Richard Callahan

COOLIDGE — With 30 years of service in the Marines, the new senior instructor of the JROTC program at Coolidge High School is dedicated to the Corps and the core.

“I did a lot of things. I was in the middle of a lot of things,” Lt. Col. Richard Callahan said of his tour during Desert Storm in Iraq and other volatile deployments.

Callahan’s duty now is to mold cadets in the Coolidge Marine Corps JROTC into community-minded individuals and prepare those interested in a military life. He and his wife relocated to Arizona from New Mexico this summer to be closer to their family in Tucson and Tempe.

Although the program of about 25 cadets usually has about 50, Callahan is encouraged by the enthusiasm of the cadets, and the day they received their uniforms is a good example.

“This year’s a bit different. If you talk to any educator you will find that the students have been struggling with the online classes. You’ll find overall enrollment is down and the cadets we have as they’ve come back are excited, they’re motivated. The last couple of days we issued out uniforms and they’re wearing them, they’re enjoying it,” he said.

At the beginning of the year, part of the standard of the unit is you have to have a haircut, and when we were online no one was getting haircuts. When they started coming back to class then one or two got haircuts and when we got the uniforms all of a sudden they all had haircuts and they’re ready to go. The motivation level is growing and getting better. I think the cadets are ready to go and do something.”

Among the objectives for Callahan is to use STEM principles in MCJROTC initiatives. He wants the cadets to combine science, technology, engineering and math subjects with their own projects.

“Each instructor tailors the unit to the strengths of the cadets in the school and themselves and comes up with focus areas of skill sets that are being developed,” Callahan said. “I’m a pretty good marksman so we’ll concentrate on our marksmanship team. I also want to look into incorporating STEM in our program. What I’m interested in is how do you take a tool like a drone, like an underwater ROV (remote-operated vehicle), like a robot and how do we use those tools to develop a character-driven, community-oriented cadet. That’s where I want to take the program.

“You can do all kinds of environmental things. You can also use that platform to look at industrial things, search-and-recovery for first responders. How can we, as a junior ROTC unit, take a tool like that and develop the leadership skills, the community involvement and the character-driven aspects of the program by using that tool? That’s how I’d like to incorporate STEM. That’s, frankly, how I want to incorporate marksmanship, physical exercise.”

Another priority is restoring the program’s enrollment back to previous levels or even higher.

“Ideally I’d like to bring the program up to about 75. We have to recruit. You can encourage cadets to bring in somebody in. They need to go out and talk to their friends and encourage them to come into the program. We can make posters, put them up on the walls of the school. We can put a table in the lunchroom of the school and we can talk to the kids during lunch. We can showcase the things that we do like the story time. A lot of kids want to be a part of something, and if we can show them the things that we do and the reasons why we do them and show them the caliber of cadets that we have, how we can develop those types of cadets then our numbers should grow.”

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