Gracie Wallace, Contributing Writer

Porter High School’s AFJROTC detachment TX-20141 has seen a multitude of changes for the 2020-2021 academic year including two brand new instructors. ROTC is also participating in a wider variety of activities and have added a drone team. However, Covid restrictions have majorly affected the program, preventing them from travelling, fundraising, community activities, and holding ceremonies.

Colonel Douglas Black previously worked at Bolton High School in Alexandria, Louisiana as a Senior Aerospace Science Instructor for 9 years, after serving in the Air Force for 29 years. He and his wife have four cats named Peanut, Butter, Jelly, and Sandwich in addition to children of their own. Senior Master Sergeant Rodney Evans was previously with Oak Ridge High School, and was in the Air Force for 24 years. He often enjoys sharing stories of his time in the military with the students. At the school, he’s accompanied by his brother, known locally as Coach E.P, his sister Mrs. Evans-Pickens, and three of his nephews.

The instructors are absolutely elated to be a part of the Porter Spartans now. And the students share this enthusiasm and passion along with them.

“I’m excited to come to Porter HS/TX-20141. SMSgt. Evans and I plan to mold the best of our old programs into an already outstanding AFJROTC unit. Our detachment has an excellent track record and we hope to make it even better,” Colonel Black said.

While both instructors are over the moon to work with the cadets and help them grow, SMSgt Evans expresses this eagerness, particularly in regards to how beneficial the program is itself.

“I believe ROTC is an outstanding program that provides the students an opportunity to learn leadership, build character, and become outstanding citizens for our country. Additionally, it provides a family atmosphere for students who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.” said Evans.

The unit has also participated in a wider variety of activities and teams, such as drone and rocketry teams, and more, as emphasized by the Group Commander, otherwise known by her close friends in ROTC as the top dog, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Brianna Steichen.

“We participate in so many fun activities like competitions, football games, etc. We have many teams such as PT, rocketry, drone, drill, and countless more,” Steichen said.

The competitions, as C/ Lt. Col. Steichen mentioned, will, unfortunately, be scarce this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, the detachment is looking forward to hopefully competing in one at Hargrave High School on November 14, with activities like Tug-of-War and dodgeball. Though it does cause sore muscles, the AFJROTC cadets wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We have a lot of fun at the games! We get to hang out and socialize, while maintaining social distance, of course. Personally, I like the color guards because they’re enjoyable to prepare for and watch back. It makes you proud to see how in sync you all can get and it’s really a privilege to do it,” Support Squadron Commander, Cadet Captain Gracie Wallace said. “But the absolute best thing about AFJROTC for me is just the atmosphere, especially with all the new changes this year. It’s easier and more encouraged to learn new things, the instructors are just awesome, and everyone within our corps is a family. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

The familial bonds created within the TX-20141 detachment are reverberated throughout the entire organization, with that being the primary response when students were asked what they thought of AFJROTC. Cadet Staff Sergeant Madelyn Patrick said,

“If there’s one thing I love about the corps it’s that we are a family all day, every day. There is not one obstacle we can’t tackle together and I encourage everyone to be a part of the family.”

SMSgt Evans makes it clear that he is proud and astonished by the “good vibes” the cadets have here, and C/ Lt. Col. Steichen agreed. She said,

“AFJROTC is like a big family to me. I can always count on the cadets to have my back.”

TX-20141 has endured quite a distinguishable amount of changes in the past year, but the students, in collaboration with their esteemed instructors, are fully motivated and committed to improving upon their already admirable program. It may take Group Staff a healthy amount of work, and help from other cadets who are just as committed, but this detachment is going places.

“It may seem to us that it’s going to be a hard task for us to handle, but it’s really not as intimidating as we might think when we consider a few things,” Group Staff’s Performance Squadron Commander, Cadet Second Lieutenant Shane Clemmer said.

“When you think about how many cadets we have who are willing to put themselves out there, and help, and contribute the best they can to the corps, even with all the restrictions and stuff, it’s honestly really exciting. The instructors are just as passionate and prepared, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our corps.”