While it doesn’t receive much attention, thousands of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) cadets across the nation learn about firearms safety, marksmanship and the core values of American citizenship every year as members of JROTC Rifle Teams. And, as is the case with one Florida U.S. Marine Corps JROTC team, many of those cadets are female.
The purpose of the JROTC is “to instill in students in [the] United States secondary educational institutions the values of citizenship, service to the United States, and personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment,” according to Title 10, Section 2031 of the United States Code.
JROTC was created by the National Defense Act of 1916. It’s a program sponsored by the U.S. Armed Forces that operates in high schools and even some middle schools.
At the Palm Bay Magnet High School, in Brevard County, Fla., for example, the Marine Corps JROTC unit has one of the nation’s top rifle teams—and eight of the nine cadets on the team are female.
“The girls can really shoot,” said retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major Roy DeYoung, instructor and rifle team coach. Earlier this year, the team competed at the Corps JROTC National Service Championships and finished 11th Place.
“Marksmanship is an integral part of the MCJROTC curriculum. With an emphasis on safety, the MCJROTC Marksmanship curriculum allows cadets to develop pride and a sense of accomplishment as they become more proficient with their marksmanship skills,” says the Marine Corps JROTC program website.
“Being a part of this team has changed my life in many ways,” said junior Annabelle Knowles. “Everyone on this team comes from different backgrounds, but we all share one thing in common and that is to strive to win. I wouldn’t trade my rifle team family for the world.”
Becky Porhammer, another student, said, “When I shoot, it gives me a chance to re-center myself when life throws me off balance and it has taught me that hard work pays off. Most importantly it has brought me closer to people I otherwise would hardly know. When I graduate, I will look back at my year in rifle team and remember it has one of the best years in my high school career.”
The cadets at the Palm Bay Rifle team use the Crosman Challenger Competition Air Rifle in .177 caliber.
DeYoung noted that the larger MC JROTC program at his school has 105 Cadets enrolled in the program, ages 14- to 19-years old—53 of the cadets are female.
When asked why the students on his rifle team are mostly female, DeYoung said, “Over my seven years of coaching the Air Rifle Team and competing at National Level matches, the majority of the top shooters are female. Not really sure why—it’s just a fact. Maybe it’s their ability to get into and be more comfortable in the shooting positions? And, the level of maturity and focus is much better among females over males at this age.”
The cadets on DeYoung’s team practice between 45 and 60 minutes every day they are in school, and frequently more prior to a big match. These cadets, he added, get a great deal out of being rifle team members, in ways far beyond the shooting and marksmanship skills they develop.
“The Cadets benefit from being part of a team, from the comradery,” DeYoung said. “The confidence they build is also a huge benefit. Of course, being successful and winning is the key. My Cadets are dedicated to putting in the work to get positive results. This sport helps make them confident, driven, student athletes who have the will to succeed in anything they choose to do in life, school or on the range.”