By Thomas Sellers Jr.
On the morning of Aug. 21, the two institutions collaborated again this time making a trivia trade.
Where was the first school visited by the new leader of the Naval Service Training Command Rear Adm. Jamie Sands? The answer will be Millington Central.
Who was the first guest speaker in the Millington Performing Arts Center on the campus of MCHS? Rear Adm. Jamie Sands will be the response forever.
“We’re definitely honored,” MCHS Principal Mark Neal said. “The NJROTC program has been longstanding here at Millington Central High School. It’s a part of our fabric. To have the Admiral who is in charge of all the JROTC programs across the country to visit our school is a big honor for us.”
Neal, Millington Municipal Schools Superintendent Bo Griffin and MCHS NJROTC instructors welcomed Sands and his crew to the campus for the historic visit.
“It’s really significant to me that this is the first JROTC I’m coming to see in the country right here in Millington,” Sands noted. “I just came from the Bureau of Naval Personnel which is a very important base we have here. I like to see the interaction between the Navy and the community in which we serve. I am excited about the whole thing.”
Sands took over the post in the Navy back in April. It was in Great Lakes, Ill., when a traditional Naval ceremony was held in the Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall at Recruit Training Command. Sands relieved Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi as commander of the Naval Service Training Command.
“We came to Millington to meet with a lot of the (human resource) folks in NSA Mid-South,” said Jim Hailey, Command Master Chief, Naval Service Training Command. “USN meets with a lot of leadership and force development team there. A part of that FORCM (SW/AW) William asked with school in session that it would be a good opportunity to come out.”
Tuck Williams and his college Chief Stephen Sisung invited Sands to the school to speak to all the NJROTC cadets and tour the program’s facilities.
“A lot of first this morning, these are always fun to come to,” Hailey said. “We have just under 700 high schools units in Navel Service Command. Each one is different especially with this being a big Navy town.”
Sands is in command of 633 high schools across the nation. He is also in charge of the Navy’s boot camp and several college ROTC programs. His first high school to visit in person was in Millington helping to debut the MPAC building.
“I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to talk to the kids,” Sands said. “I was super impressed. I loved the questions. They were some great questions, very insightful. It is such an important time in a young person’s life, really trying to figure it out. ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ ‘Am I going to be enough?’ They keep coming back to those questions.
“It’s just wonderful to see the environment with the school, the JROTC program in the school,” he continued. “The position it has to help these young men and young women develop as citizens through service.”
Neal noted some of the brightest minds in MCHS had a chance to interact with Sands. The NJROTC cadets have better attendance, ACT test scores among others compared to their peers.
“The kids were phenomenal,” Neal said. “They did not disappoint. I’ll be the first one to admit we lean on our NJROTC leaders to always participate in events. Whether they’re community events, with parents or events with Admiral Sands, they are a big part of what we do as a school. We love to spotlight them and the program.”
Part of the spotlight was Sands taking selfies with the children, reflecting on his time as a Navy SEAL and how he got started in his military career.
“He’s real big on interaction,” Hailey said. “We’ve been looking forward to the school year starting so we could come out to the schools and also visit some of the college routes.
“The University of Memphis has an ROTC unit that falls under us as well as Ole Miss,” he added. “So we have a lot here in the Memphis/Millington area get to interact with. But the high school routes are just a gem to interact with these young kids.”
Sands shared his terms of expectations with the children in the MPAC auditorium. His first point was to treat everyone with respect. Secondly he emphasized “Own it.” He encouraged the students to take ownership of their decisions and where they go in life.
Finally he told them to maintain the mindset of a warrior, be ready to face adversity because life is hard and it’s coming for all of them.
Neal said that advice for the military, school and life reminded him of the Five P’s he recently introduced to his students: be punctual, be prepared, be productive, be positive and be preserving.
“I think those aligned directly with what Admiral Sands informed our students of today,” he concluded. “We’re going to ready just emphasize those five things to our students to be successful in life inside and outside of school.”