Shining a Light on the Bedford High School JROTC Program

January 6, 2023
BHS Air Force JROTC students marched together in the Bedford Day Parade this year. Staff Photo.

Everyone who attends Bedford High School has noticed the students walking around in uniform once a week. However, they may not understand exactly why. The school’s Air Force JROTC program is popular and well-established but still comes as a mystery to some. 

What is Air Force JROTC?

JROTC is not a military training program. The many BHS students who enroll in the program are not required in any way to join the US military, and only about 4 percent do. Instead, it is a citizenship and leadership program with the aim of developing “citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community,” according to the program’s website.  

BHS JROTC Advisors Mierz and Humphrey
(L to R) Lt Col Kenneth Mierz, USAF (retired) and MSgt Charlie Humphrey (retired) lead and instruct the JROTC program at BHS. Courtesy Image BHS JROTC

How does it work?

At BHS, students can enroll in the JROTC program at any time during their four years. Once enrolled, a student must take aerospace science, a class that meets four times per six day cycle. This class counts as an elective and meets the physical education requirements for graduation from BHS. The program is led by two instructors, both retired military people. Currently, the two instructors are Lieutenant Colonel Ken Mierz and Master Sergeant Charles Humphrey. 

What do they do?

Class time in the JROTC program is more varied than in other classes. Some of the time is spent in a traditional class, learning about topics such as the history of flight, leadership development, and global and cultural studies. The main focus of the class rotates on a four-year basis, so students who enroll in the program for all four years learn new information each year. The other days of the week are spent in less traditional ways. In the spirit of the program fulfilling the physical education requirement, many days are spent playing dodgeball or in the weight room. Promoting physical well-being is a major portion of the program. Students also learn Air Force drills, as well as basic military information such as how to correctly fold an American flag. 

The Air Force JROTC program at BHS provides a unique experience for its students. The program uses nearby Hanscom Air Force Base to its advantage, exposing students to the military as well as allowing them to gain valuable leadership skills that will serve them well regardless of what their future holds. 

Students have a variety of reasons for joining the program. For BHS senior Julian Caro, it was because he was “really interested in the military.” For others, it is a desire to develop leadership skills or simply to fulfill PE requirements. 

Students who are interested in joining the program can speak to their counselors when choosing classes for the next school year. The only requirement to join the program is to enroll in the class, and students can join in any year. 

The unit does presentations at JGMS and Hanscom Middle School each year so the eighth graders can learn more about the program. For more information, including a syllabus and the cadet guide, students can visit https://sites.google.com/a/bedford.k12.ma.us/bhs-jrotc.

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Molly Gilarde is a 2021 graduate of Bedford High School and a second year student at the University of Georgia.

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Tim Bennett
January 6, 2023 10:29 pm

I’m glad that Bedford’s JROTC experience is so much better than those of many other schools!

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