Skip To Main Content

Logo Image

Rockwood School District

Logo Title

Lafayette Students Enjoy Chances to Learn, Become Leaders with Air Force JROTC

Lafayette Students Enjoy Chances to Learn, Become Leaders with Air Force JROTC

If you take a poll the nearly 60 Lafayette High Air Force Junior ROTC (AFJROTC) cadets, you’ll hear just about as many reasons why the students joined the program.

Senior David Piercy was interested in becoming a pilot. Sophomore Finn Cronin was drawn to AFJROTC’s military connections. Sophomore Sam Niblett wanted to replicate his sister’s positive experience as a cadet leader in the program. Freshman Tejveer Atwal joined because a family friend is one of the faculty sponsors.

It was only after joining that Atwal discovered his love of the class flight simulator.

“Now he just chills on the flight sim all day,” Niblett said, with a laugh. “He never wants to leave.”

Lafayette’s AFJROTC program, along with its accompanying Aerospace Science courses, clubs and other opportunities, has something for just about everyone. The common threads are the camaraderie between cadets and the leadership and citizenship lessons MO-081 – or “The Missouri 81st” – imparts.

AFJROTC student cadet leaders head up an "all call" meeting of fellow student cadets at their school.

“A minority of club members actually end up doing something military-related. We use the military as a framework to complete our mission of developing citizens of character,” Piercy said. “Not one of us is alike. Everyone has different passions. The diversity is what makes it a lot different than other clubs.”

MO-081 has been active at Lafayette since 1973. Colonel Robert Jakcsy and Senior Master Sergeant Matt Zahradka sponsor the program and provide instruction in four levels of Aerospace Science courses – Aviation History, Science of Flight, Exploring Space and Management of the Cadet Corps – as well as four levels of Leadership Education courses.

Each cadet completes around 20 hours of community service per semester and gets the opportunity to fly a Cessna aircraft with the Civil Air Patrol. In October, a number of cadets also took a trip to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport to pilot a US Army UH-60 “Black Hawk” helicopter.

The corps is divided into four “flights,” whose names are chosen by flight members at the beginning of each school year. The cadets compete for “Flight of the Month” and “Flight of the Year” recognition. They also compete against each other in an organized activity during the program’s monthly “all call” meeting.

Two Rockwood AFJROTC student cadets celebrate during an intrasquad handball game during an "all call" meeting.

For March, they went toe-to-toe in handball.

“One of our mottos is ‘cadet-led, cadet-run,’” Piercy said. “Instructors facilitate – they run the curriculum and manage the class – but then the rest of it is up to the cadets. It’s up to us to work on projects together. There is leadership inside each flight: commander, fitness leader, things like that.”

Cadets have opportunities to participate in clubs and teams within the corps that cover topics such as drill and color guard, orienteering, physical fitness, flight, cybersecurity and academic excellence. Orienteering is a particular favorite, with a team from Lafayette taking the top score at a recent competition in Lake of the Ozarks State Park.

For their part, Cronin and Niblett enjoy their roles on the drill and ceremony team.

A Rockwood AFJROTC cadet salutes one of her student cadet leaders during an "all call" meeting at her school.

“There’s something about putting on the service dress, getting all fancied up, spinning our replica drill rifles around; it’s all about being in unison, in sync, just perfection,” Cronin said. “It’s fun to see how far you get from where you started. I’ve watched videos of our team from last year and then, comparing them to our teams this year, the differences and improvements are so noticeable.”

Another main draw for the cadets is a shared sense of duty, both to each other and with fellow students from around the region.

Although the Lafayette students say they have a friendly rivalry with the Marquette High AFJROTC chapter, they’re also planning to come together for the annual 10-mile Bataan Memorial March at Forest Park on Friday, March 29.

“ROTC is always somewhere I can come where I know I have friends who can help me with something if I need it,” Cronin said. “It has created a bridge for so many friendships and relationships I never thought I would have that I have now.”

Recent News Articles