August 22, 2014

Elyria
Mostly sunny
82°F
test

Slashing Midview JROTC could mean total loss of storied program

Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Hampton, left, author of “Viper Pilot,” and Col. Scott E. Manning, a 1982 Midview High School graduate, pose for a picture April 7, 2003, after they destroy Saddam Hussein’s escape helicopters in Baghdad.

F-16 pilot Col. Scott Manning, a 1982 graduate of Midview High, strapped himself into a jet nine years ago to play his part in toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and other medals for feats such as helping to destroy Saddam Hussein’s escape helicopters.

The attack on Khan Bani Sad airfield — nicknamed Saddam Hussein’s back door — took place April 7, 2003.

Manning and his flying partner, Lt. Col. Dan Hampton, dodged surface-to-air missiles while taking out the Soviet-made helicopters.

“The regime was collapsing rapidly,” Manning said. “They were sitting there, the rotors were going and it was an opportunity — a time-critical or time-sensitive-target.”

Manning was featured prominently in Hampton’s 2012 book, “Viper Pilot,” and also was included in a second book, “F-16 Fighting Falcon Units of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” published in 2006.

Now an adjunct professor of aerospace studies at Yale University, Manning said he got his start in the Air Force Junior ROTC program in the Midview Schools.

He and other JROTC graduates from Midview said they will take it hard if the district is forced to give up the program because of budget cuts.

“For a kid from Grafton and Midview to be at Yale thirty years later is why people should be keeping the district educationally viable,” said Manning, who heads up the ROTC program at Yale.

On Monday, school officials warned that JROTC — and other extracurricular activities like sports — will be on the chopping block for the 2013-14 school year if voters don’t pass a levy.

Without new funds, Midview Superintendent John Kuhn said the district will have to focus on core curriculum required for graduation.

“JROTC is a wonderful program, (but) it’s outside the requirements for high school graduation,” Kuhn said. “It counts as an elective credit. … We have to save at least enough to offer kids the credits they need.”

Sadly, there is a good chance that Midview will lose the program for good if it is eliminated, the superintendent said.

The JROTC program at Midview began in 1969 and it has involved thousands of students over the years.

Some 150 to 160 students are typically involved — about 10 percent of those at the high school.

If they stick with it, the JROTC students get to ride in a military plane, a powerful inducement and a lot of fun, said Lise Day, president and CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

But Day said the biggest advantage of JROTC is learning leadership skills that will serve students well in life, even if they never join the military.

Another fan of the JROTC program at Midview is Chantal Hunt, who said she was part of a record-breaking class in 1985 that produced seven full-scholarship winners.

“I must tell you, that program is vital to many kids’ lives and has produced many full scholarships for individuals who may not have had the opportunity to attend college otherwise,” Hunt said.

Brian Hawke, who graduated in 1982 along with Manning, credits the now-retired Lt. Col. William Campbell for walking him through every step he needed to apply for an Air Force ROTC scholarship, which paid full tuition, books and a monthly allowance for four years.

Hawke, who retired at the rank of captain, served as an Electronic Warfare Officer in the B-52, flying for 14 to 15 years, including time in both Iraq wars.

He sent a photograph of himself and two friends enjoying Thomasson’s Potato Chips in Saddam Hussein’s palace in 2003.

“There is no way I could have had the opportunity to serve our great nation without having the AFJROTC program and Col. Campbell to lay the foundations for my career during my formative high school years,” said Hawke, now a threat analyst at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.

“There are only 884 JROTC programs in the nation and they have a waiting list of 200,” Hawke said. “For a school district to let it go is shocking — if you lose it, you’re probably not going to get it back.”

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.