MASTER SERGEANT Joe Henderson is proud of his outfit, the 801st Junior Rear Officer Training Corps at Minuteman Technical High School in Lexington. "They get some grand opportunities--why, some of them last week got to go up in a C-135 and refuel jets. Mr. Hicks, you got to go up, didn't you."
"Yes sir--it was pretty cold up there."
"And what about you, Cadet Johnson?"
"Yeah, I mean, yes sir. It was real fun. One kid barfed on the colonel's coat."
"They're not supposed to barf," Henderson says.
SOMETIMES high school kids throw up, so they're excluded from the regular military. But the armed forces never turn away a soul--as part of their outreach, they sponsor JROTC. A recruiting poster explains the concept succinctly. For a few hours every other week in "aerospace education" and "leadership laboratory," students 14 years of age and older earn the following benefits: "Military Ball... Bowling League... Films... Annual Squadron Picnic... Basketball... Color Guard."
And so they come in droves. "We expected 65, maybe 70. We got 160," Henderson says, adding, "We ran out of uniforms, we ran out of books, we ran out of advancement pins."
Colonel Thomas M. Phillips, who heads the program, is even more excited by the fast growth. "In just a few short weeks, Minuteman Tech met and surpassed all viability criteria, and the future of the program seems assured," he wrote in a school newsletter.
Large numbers may win the next land war in Europe, but they will plague Henderson, at least for a few weeks. "It will take me quite a while to learn all your names," he admits at the opening session of leadership lab, his specialty. "There's only one of me, so it shouldn't take you as long to learn my name," he adds.
Like all lecturers, he uses his first-day speech to cover his grand designs for the course. "What do you think leadership is?" he asks the class. One answer, a little timid: "Does it mean when someone can make other people do something they don't want to?" Henderson looks around the room, unsatisfied. Another reply, this time more confident: "It means having the respect of others and influence over them," a red-headed boy says. But Henderson just pauses, stares at his desk, glances at the class, and then says, "Class, leadership really boils down to the golden rule."
Though he doesn't define his terms, it emerges that the golden rule excludes bullies and encourages integrity, honesty and responsibility. "I hope you won't be coming in here with the answers on your cuffs," he says, though he adds quickly, "I don't think we'll be having any tests."
The subject broached, Henderson goes on to explain his grading philosophy. Leadership "is not only part of your training, it's also part of your mark," he explains. "You spend two days a week in leadership, and three days in flight science. So two-fifths of your grade will be in leadership. That's roughly 40 per cent, but I only deal in ballpark figures, 'cause in leadership we've got to be flexible."
INTEGRITY, responsibility, honesty--those sound a little hard to grade. Fortunately, there are objective criteria. "Appearance, now appearance counts quite a bit, the number of times you wear your uniform and all," Henderson explains. The U.S. government provides the uniforms free of charge, small, baggy replicas of real Air Force clothes. More importantly, they provide decorations. At the front of the class, all the pins and badges--right up to four-star general--are glued on a piece of cardboard.
"All the kids get this one here," Henderson says, pointing to a miniscule emblem in the corner. "And some of them get this one, and a few this one here," he says, pointing to slightly gaudier decorations. "Can I get this one?" a kid asks, pointing at the four stars. "Maybe, if you sign up when you get out of school," Henderson says. Officers--squadron leaders and others--are chosen from among the students; at the end of each class, several volunteers come up to say they wouldn't mind the responsibility.
Snappy dressing counts, true, but it isn't enough. To excel requires proficiency in what Henderson calls "your military courtesies:" Courtesy here means avoiding first names; "in class, you can call each other cadets or Mr. Smith and Miss Jones." Unfortunately, there is a Mr. Jones in this class, so the explanation provokes some giggles. "You may address yourself by your cadet rank--Cadet Lieutenant Smith, Cadet Jones," Henderson adds.