NJROTC program strengthens with new leadership


Rita Melnikova, Senior Writer

The loss of both Chief Al Torstenson and Commander Dan Joslin the same year left Liberty NJROTC directionless, but to the relief of the students Captain John Deehr, from the University of Washington NROTC program, and Master Gunnery Sargent Fred Pickering, from Northridge High School MCJROTC program, applied for the job.
“I loved having Chief Torstenson and Commander Joslin as teachers in the program and they helped make my first two years at Liberty such a success,” junior Luke Ransom said. “But with Captain and Master Gunny in charge, the atmosphere of the program has already been shifted into top gear. The standards have been raised and brought back to what NJROTC should be at.”
Most NJROTC cadets agree that while change is hard, it is beneficial. Deehr and Pickering are running a tighter ship, creating a stricter, but a more positive, growth-inducing environment.
“What we need to improve is the level of intensity to get back to that place of having the number one leadership, physical training, and educational class at Liberty, something that I believe will be achieved this year,” Ransom said.
Deehr and Pickering’s immediate concern is to bring program numbers up to 100 cadets so that it doesn’t lose funding. Deehr believes that by setting realistic goals all of this will be accomplished.
“They are a lot more engaged with the cadets, they want to see us succeed and are not afraid to participate fully in all of our activities,” senior Commanding Officer Jenafer Johanson said.
According to Johanson the biggest challenge NJROTC faces is restructuring the program around its original ideals, starting with three of the most important – communication, commitment and accountability. With those restored, the class will have a greater impact on each individual in the program and consequently everyone at the school.
“When students leave the program, we want them to have some leadership experience and be good productive members of the community regardless of which path they choose after high school, whether that be college, trade school, tech school, joining the work force, or even joining the military,” Deehr said.
The new naval instructors are planning on giving the NJROTC program new energy by helping it to become a bigger part of Liberty’s community. They will begin by conducting color guards more frequently, at various sporting events such as girls’ basketball and Maywood Middle School events, as well as hosting an annual drill meet at Liberty. Deehr thinks that these activities will help spread visibility of this program far beyond Liberty High School, creating a larger, more stable and highly respected program.
“Pickering and I are both very dedicated to our Cadets and the program as a whole and we love the atmosphere here at Liberty,” Deehr said.