|Friday, Sep 7, 2012|
Aztec Ruins National Monument welcomed dozens of Aztec High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) members into its ranks during the end of the 2012 school year and the following summer. Funding to pay students and buy materials came through the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC).
This was a first paid job for many, and the cadets reported learning responsibility with money and more respect for their parents as outcomes of summer work. They also received training in various operations of the National Park Service and completed critical park projects working alongside archeologists, interpreters, administrators, and maintenance employees.
The monument benefited greatly from the tremendous support the JROTC program provided. Without this support, it would have taken years and tens of thousands of dollars to accomplish what the JROTC program did in a few months. The cadets built a new 1,050 foot buck and rail fence, created and tended a demonstration garden, removed an ugly, superfluous fence, removed tons of dead wood and branches that would have provided fuel for wildfires, eradicated numerous non-native Russian olive trees, performed many hours of preservation work on West Ruin, and assisted kids in summer Junior Ranger Camps.
The park hosted an end-of-season cookout for the students to thank them for the long hours they spent in the hot sun dedicated to the NPS mission. Their shifts began at 7:00 a.m. each day, and they finished the afternoon with demanding physical training. During their last week, the cadets surprised everyone by hosting a pizza party for all park employees and volunteers.
Park employees look forward to having the cadets support our operations again next year. We intend to extend the new buck and rail fence by another 1,400 feet, continue work in the demonstration garden, remove more non-native species and dead wood, and continually improve and preserve Aztec Ruins National Monument. Many of us won’t have to wait a year to see the cadets again. Rangers will visit their JROTC classroom regularly to give educational programs during the school year.