Tuesday, August 16, 2011
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tripp Blanton is about to retire from 22 years of active duty and begin a second career as Stratford High School’s Senior Army Instructor for JROTC.
Blanton was born and raised in Summerville, is childhood friends with Berkeley County School District Superintendent Rodney Thompson, and has served in the military around the globe, moving 16 times in 22 years.
He graduated from Summerville High School and The Citadel. His latest assignment was as Director For Chief of Transportation in Ft. Lee, Va.
According to Blanton, JROTC is much more than marching rifle drill. He says its mission is to motivate young people to be better citizens. It teachers good manners, leadership attributes and encourages students to be responsible, he said.
The unique curriculum includes important classes such as financial management planning, basic citizenship, values and leadership training.
Blanton plans to visit middle schools and attend parent-teacher conferences to tell people that JROTC is not solely about marching and rifle drill.
“The program is not designed to recruit your child to go into the service,” he said. “But they have the option to enlist and jump to ranks to PFC (Private First Class) . . . It exposes them to options in the services and structure and discipline.”
Joining the military after JROTC also means better pay.
“These kids are making memories right now that will last a lifetime,” Blanton said. “I’m extremely passionate about the JROTC program. I’m looking forward to making a difference for the kids at Stratford High School.
“The school is getting a good deal . . . As an Army officer much of what I do is training.”
There are 190 cadets in Stratford’s JROTC unit, which received an Army Unit of Distinction award this year, he said. Also helping Blanton run the program are a Command Sergeant Major and a First Sergeant.
Blanton’s daughter is on the Stratford volleyball team and his son attends Westview Middle.