For visitors to Blackford High School’s new JROTC obstacle course located behind the school, one might think the students who train on the course were in training to go into the military. But you would be wrong.

    A group of about 20 seniors who participate in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at BHS demonstrated their skills last week following a ribbon cutting Friday afternoon for the  new $10,000 course.

    Members of the Indiana National Guard and local school officials as well as members of the public gathered together that afternoon in celebration of the opening of the JROTC obstacle course.

    One National Guardsman told The News-Times that he believed the obstacle course is the first one of its kind “north of the Ohio River.”

    Those attending the ribbon cutting and demonstrations watched in amazement as the JROTC Raiders scurried up ropes, climbed over tall walls and jumped through huge tires. It was quite obvious the cadets had trained well.

    Their performance in various matches nationwide back up the rigorous training the Raiders go through. They have to their credit both national and state trophies and titles.

     Students compete in a variety of matches, including physical challenges, marksmanship and drill teams. The Raiders team makes up a small percentage of the students who participate in the JROTC program.

    About 150 students overall take the class at BHS as an elective. There are a multitude of subjects taught in the class, from government, history, leadership skills, creative writing, financial planning to even a bit of neuropsychology.

    MSG Richard Kauffman, who has led the school’s JROTC program since its inception in 2005,  was quick to praise the cadets and agreed that his students would have little trouble going through military basic training.

    But Kauffman said only a few of his students had plans to join the military.

    In past interviews, Kauffman has noted that the JROTC actually has nothing to do with the military – other than it is funded by the U.S. Army and led by retired military personnel.

    Students who participate in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program are not required to join the military after high school and the program is not a military preparation class.

    Kauffman described the program as unique.  

    “It’s not your average sport,” said Kauffman, who served 20 years of active duty with the Army before assuming the leadership role of the JROTC program at BHS. He has a master’s degree in education.

    Citizenship, leadership, character and community service are the core tenets of high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard each operate their own versions of the program for high schoolers, which are offered at more than 3,000 U.S. high schools as an elective course.

    “The mission is to prepare youth to become better citizens,” Kauffman previously told the News-times.