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Durfee NJROTC Being Decommissioned

Renée Thiboutot '12
April 4, 2012

Navy officials have notified the School Department that the Durfee Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) program at B.M.C. Durfee High School will be decommissioned at the end of the school year. Durfee is one of 29 schools across the country to be decommissioned this year alone; 19 were decommissioned last year.

Chief Petty Officer Craig Skerkis, hired last March to fill the 2nd administrative job, and Lt. Col. James Meyen, who has worked at Durfee for seven years, said the program was being decommissioned because they failed to meet the minimum enrollment requirement; funding restrictions also played a major role. The program has been on a five year downward spiral in result of the program being in violation of the requirement of having two instructors for the past three years. The group thought they were just going to be placed on probationary status, so this came as a surprise.

“Because of budget cuts across the nation, the Navy and all other armed services are cutting back tens of thousands of active duty military members and with it the Navy is going to save money anywhere they can, so they are also taking a look at what they consider to be the underperforming units, or ones that have not met the requirements,” said Meyen.

Prior to this news, a Navy inspector instructed Durfee to focus on still maintaining a quality program, rather than trying to meet enrollment requirements. The program also faced a final inspection back in February. With just about 82 students involved in the program last year, the enrollment did not reach the 100 student requirement. Since then, the program has had increased involvement, with 135 students now in the program. In previous years the Navy has allowed a year for problems to be addressed; however, they took a different approach this time.

Decommissioned programs were directed to join the NNDCC, Navy National Defense Cadet Corps, which is similar to the NJROTC, but does not come with funding from the Navy. Approximately half of the programs costs, usually over $150,000 a year, are paid by the Navy, including the salaries of Meyen and Skerkis. Meyen hopes Durfee can return to the ROTC program after a year in Cadet Corps. Fortunately, the Navy is leaving behind thousands of dollars worth of supplies, uniforms, and equipment for the Durfee students.

“I would rather not see this happen,” said Meyen, “but I still plan on being here for the next 10 to 15 years.”

With little hope lost, these NJROTC members are continuing to strive towards their long term goal with a new program available. Even though the NJROTC program is being decommissioned, the students have not lost their inspiring drive.