INTERVIEW: Highlighting The Pennsbury JROTC

(From left) Gracie Maccarella, Major James J MacEachern, Jr., and Riley Girton. Photo by Rick Rickman.

Major James J MacEachern, Jr., and students Gracie Maccarella, and Riley Girton speak to WBCB 1490.

The Pennsbury High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is looking for new students to join for next year. Retired Air Force Major James MacEachern, Jr., who leads the program, and two star students joined WBCB 1490 for an exclusive interview.

Major MacEachern connected with WBCB when Captain Sean Lipkin soared overhead Levittown in an F-15, then flew performed a flyover at the Linc for the Eagles vs. Patriots game last November. Lipkin spoke to the Pennsbury JROTC students, detailing exciting life experiences thanks to his time in the Air Force.

The complete Pennsbury JROTC hierarchy, with Gracie Maccarella, and Riley Girton at center.

And while students learn about the structure of the military and related fields, there is absolutely no requirement for them to join any branch after high school. MacEachern does not even allow recruiters in the room.

“Most of our students don’t go in the military. It’s their choice whether they do or not, we don’t push it,” the Major said. “A lot students in this school still think that, and a lot of teachers do, so we try to debunk that as often as we can.”

As for the students who sign up for the elective, one says what they get out of the program is based on what they put in. Gracie Maccarella joined three years ago as a freshman and calls it the best decision of her life.

“We wear the uniform once a week, but that’s definitely something you grow to become proud of,” Maccarella said. She went from being even a little intimidated as a freshman to having a blast in class. “Even though we learn, the stuff we learn about is so interesting. We learn about leadership, manners, and management; things no other class really does.”

And many of the memorable experiences take place outside of the classroom. Highlights include a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia and getting dressed up to see the Nutcracker.

An appreciative letter from A Soldier’s Hands thanking the Pennsbury JROTC on display.

Senior Riley Girton also joined three years ago. Girton says volunteering for activities like community service and the color guard round out the JROTC experience.

On Dec. 21, the Pennsbury JROTC color guard will be performing the colors for the Villanova University game in the Wells Fargo Center. Four students will be at center court before the Wildcats take on the Kansas Jayhawks.

Girton has performed at the Wells Fargo as part of the color guard on several occasions.

“It seems intimidating at first, but you go back onto your training and you keep your nerve,” Girton said. “You have to listen for commands and just do it.”

The program began for the 2017-2018 school year. Signing up for the Pennsbury AFJROTC is as easy as any other elective. Anyone with questions can reach out to Major MacEachern at jmaceachern@pennsburysd.org.