- Columbus City Schools
New Uniforms for Army Junior ROTC Cadets at West HS
September 22, 2021 -- The Army Junior ROTC program at West High School has had such a profound impact on senior Jason Kelley, he has already enlisted, and he doesn’t turn 18 for another five months.
“On August 19, about a month after I graduate from high school, I’m going to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to be an Army mechanic with the 91 Sierra Company,” said Jason Kelley.
Kelley’s love of the military started when he was a little boy running around his backyard shouting, “I am a soldier, I am a soldier.”
When he was a freshman at West High School, he joined the Army Junior ROTC program and never looked back. Kelley says that he has gone from “knowing nothing as a freshman” to a Command Sergeant Major his senior year.
“It makes me so proud to see how Jason Kelley has progressed over the four years,” said Army Junior ROTC Instructor Michael Buschur. “The whole idea is to make these cadets leaders so that by their senior year, they are leading drills, conducting meetings, and maintaining control. When that happens, then you know as instructors we’ve done our jobs.”
While humble, retired Army Master Sergeant Michael Buschur fights for his cadets, including writing a grant to get new uniforms on every cadet’s back by the start of the 2021 - 2022 school year. The Army invested $31,000 for 130 camouflage uniforms for the West High School program, which means cadets have a dress uniform and a camouflage one.
“What’s nice about the camouflage uniform is that’s what the current Army service personnel are wearing, and being honest, it’s more comfortable, especially on Thursdays, which is the uniform day at West,” said Buschur. “What teenager wants to sit in their dress uniform the entire school day?
“What size shoe do you wear,” Kelley asks a new, freshman cadet. “A half size larger is usually the way to go, and remember, after you tie the laces, tuck them in. Nothing is sticking out, smooth and clean with your pants hanging over just a little.”
Senior cadets like Kelley were helping hand out the new uniforms to the younger cadets. That includes a hat, t-shirt, jacket, pants, socks, and boots.
Kelley shared what he has learned about the cap’s brim with the sophomore cadet who just signed up. “Wet the brim when you get home and stick it in a coffee cup so by morning, the brim will be the right shape, and you won’t get dinged during the inspection,” Kelley said.
The Army Junior ROTC cadets are evaluated on how they dress every time they wear their uniforms.
“There’s a right way to wear the uniform and a wrong way,” said Buschur. “While no one wants to be told they are doing something wrong, that’s how you learn. The uniform is not a little detail.”
West High School cadets debuted their new camouflage uniforms at Friday’s football game between West and South. Cadets from both programs presented the colors together. Instead of a four-person color guard, there was an eight-person presentation with equally represented cadets from the only two schools in the District that offer the Army Junior ROTC program. In addition to the upperclassman, every freshman cadet had the opportunity to march onto the field behind the Color Guard.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Buschur. “I spent 22 years in the Army, and you always want to wear your uniform.”
Jason Kelley was excited about the announcer recognizing him on the public address system on game night. And just like his instructor Buschur, Kelley was thinking of the cadets following in his footsteps.
“We have a future here, especially with the ROTC program at West High School,” the 17-year-old said. “We are in the spotlight now, but next year, these cadets will be filling our shoes.”