Naval Junior ROTC revived at PHS

PARKERSBURG – The U.S. Navy will reinstate the Naval Junior ROTC program at Parkersburg High School, a West Virginia senator said Friday.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, said the community got behind the program and worked to bring it back.

“After Parkersburg High School lost its NJROTC funding, the community did what West Virginians do best, bind together to support a cause they believe in,” Rockefeller said.

The Naval Junior ROTC program funding was cut at the end of the 2010-11 school year with the Navy citing budget cuts and lower-than-required enrollment numbers for the PHS program. The program was one of two West Virginia high school ROTC programs dissolved at that time.

Enrollment then was at an all-time low after nearly 25 years of operation, officials said.

Cmdr. John Snively has been with the program for seven years and said the cut in funding from the Navy did not stop the community from keeping students interested. The program was still around, but the school board and fundraisers were keeping it running, Snively said.

Rockefeller has tried to get the Navy to reinstate the program for the past two years. The program will start back up with more than 120 cadets for the fall of 2013, officials said.

“It’s remarkable what the Parkersburg community did to bring this important program back to Parkersburg High School,” Rockefeller said. “Now it can reclaim its important place in the community and begin to enrich the lives of high school students now and in the future.”

Carla Husk, treasurer of the ROTC boosters, was pleased with the news. She was involved with the efforts two years ago to persuade the Navy to reinstate PHS as a Naval Junior ROTC program.

“A lot of hard work went into getting back there,” she said.

A main point in the Navy’s elimination of the ROTC status was dwindling student participation. It had fallen below 100 participants and the school was given several years to build it back up. The roster for the program last year was more than 120 students, Husk said.

Designation as an ROTC program means more of the funds raised by the boosters can be used for the students, Husk said. For example, the Navy will pay for the uniforms in an ROTC unit, she said.

“We are happy, elated,” Snively said. “Two years of hard work and we’re very happy the Navy has decided to reinstate the program.”

Snively said he, along with the officers and school officials, are proud of the community for their help.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” he said of Parkersburg High and the Parkersburg community. “The community supported us 100 percent.”

During the summer months following the program’s cancellation, supporters rallied and purchased the National Defense Cadet Corps program for one year. The two programs are identical except for funding.

Local supporters were forced to raise funds through various events, the Wood County Board of Education and through Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to help pay for the program for the 2011-12 school year.

Pat Law, superintendent of Wood County Schools, said school officials were happy with the reinstatement.

“We are very excited. A lot of parents and staff and students, a number of individuals around our community all worked hard over the last couple years,” he said. “It’s an outstanding program and deserves to be (in existence.)”

PHS Principal Pam Goots said school officials were grateful for the work and community support given by all involved in the process of re-establishing the program. Goots said enrollment is back up to 126 students, after being below 100 a few years earlier.

“It’s quite a big thing for us,” she said.