Due to Worsening Economy, More Students Want to Join the Military
By Gemma Q. Casas November 15, 2006
Variety News Staff
AS the islands’ eight-year economic crisis continues to worsen, more public school students on Saipan are enlisting with the world’s most powerful armed forces in hopes of financing their college education.
But the students must first pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a multiple choice aptitude tests on general science, arithmetic, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mathematics, electronic information and auto shop knowledge.
For many of these students, one way of preparing for the ASVAB is entering the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.
JROTC is a program envisioned to instill discipline and nationalism among American high school students — and it is becoming more popular now among Northern Marianas students.
JROTC offers a regular review of ASVAB, which increases the students’ chances of passing the test.
At Saipan Southern High School, 748 of close to a thousand students are JROTC cadets.
Kelvin Babauta, a junior at SSHS, said joining the military will enable him to study in college, serve his country and see the rest of the world.
“I would die for my country. I also see the military as a way to travel. See better things besides Saipan,” said Babauta, who is a cadet 2nd lieutenant.
He said he feels he has to pass the ASVAB now more than ever due to the CNMI’s deteriorating economic condition.
His friends feel the same way.
“We must pass ASVAB,” he said. “It’s a difficult test.”
Henry Camacho, a sophomore at SSHS, also sees his future in the military.
“I want to serve my country,” he said, adding that some of his cousins are already deployed in Iraq.
He said his cousins’ stories about combat and “living on the edge” have inspired him to pass the ASVAB.
For 15-year-old Michelle Ramon, the JROTC program is crucial to her future.
She and Kayla Naboliv Jr. see a brighter future ahead of them if they sign up with the military.
Ramon said the JROTC can help prepare her for life’s challenges.
“The military is one of my options,” she said.
Naboliv, for her part, said the military would help finance her college education.
“I want to be independent and I see the military helping me get a degree in history and education. It will open a new world for me,” she said.
Sgt. Major Shawn Goins, adviser to Col. Stephen Smith, commander of the 13th Brigade, which oversees the U.S. JROTC in the Pacific region, said the program is not aimed at recruiting military personnel but it does help cadets have a better chance of entering the armed forces.
“We just want to give them a map that shows if you work hard it pays in the end. The JROTC is not a recruitment operation nor is the senior ROTC program. It is just a program in high school to help young adults become better citizens no matter what they want to do after they leave high school,” said Goins.
He said the 13th Brigade oversees 55 JROTC and SROTC programs in Montana, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa.
The visiting military official said the Pacific region has one of the best JROTC programs in the U.S.
“JROTC programs stretching from here to Guam, all the way to the American Samoa and Hawaii, are, in my eyes, some of the best that we have. The kids are very disciplined. They understand that someone wants to show you a better way of life and they get it in this part of the country,” the North Carolina-based Goins said.
Goins and Smith are scheduled to talk with various public school principals and Northern Marianas College officials during their stay on island.