Navy ROTC student heads to D.C to learn about national security

Ninth-grade Anderson County High School student Christine Dice is currently participating in the National Youth Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.

Dice was selected for the program because of her high academic achievements and achievements within the school’s Navy ROTC program.

“I wanted to join the NROTC so I could know what to expect when I join the military,” Dice said. “That’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

She plans on enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, but she is open to all military branches.

Being nominated for the forum means a lot to Dice, she said, and confirms her belief that she’s chosen the right path.

The forum will focus on national security and will teach Dice about intelligence strategies and diplomacy. The six-day hands-on workshops will also introduce students to future career opportunities with government agencies.

More than anything, it’s designed to teach leadership skills.

“It was more than just her academic achievements, though,” explained her father, Eddie Dice. “She made a 4.0 in ROTC and was awarded three stars.”

She received awards for Distinguished Unit, Unit Achievement, Aptitude (bronze star), Exemplary Appearance, Exemplary Conduct, and holds rank as Seaman Apprentice.

Dice is also enrolled in the Anderson County Career and Technical Center, where she was recognized as Student of the Semester for culinary arts as well as in digital business. She also plays softball for the Lady Patriots in Clinton.

“And she sings and plays guitar and ukelele,” added Eddie.

She credits the NROTC for teaching her discipline, something her father had already instilled in her early on. Eddie is a disabled military veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force and is a Desert Storm veteran.

“I’m proud, and know that she is going down the right path,” he said, “a path that I don’t have to worry about. She sees the value of discipline at home, and now she sees it out in the world, too. Melding that together, that’s why she’s got the GPA that she does.”

Chief Allen Davis started the NROTC program alongside Captain Tommy Mariner in August 2001. Mariner retired at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, but Davis has kept up the spirit for the 130-plus cadets.

The program received the Distinguished Unit award for the 16th time in a row, making the Maverick Company one of the most recognized units in the nation.

The program is a one-hour in-school class with opportunities to volunteer for more activities outside of the classroom.

“We hold them to a very high standard,” Davis said. “We tell them that this is what we expect and we don’t want to take anything less than that. For some, it’s a shock, because nobody’s held them accountable before. They know that this is the standard and they’re going to get in trouble if they don’t meet it. They kind of like that.”

Davis and Maj. J.T. Young don’t recruit students into the military. The NROTC is a citizenship development program, according to Davis, but they do prepare students for a career in the military if they choose it.

“We have drill meets, take orientation trips, and that opens their eyes a little bit,” Davis said.

The program also has orienteering teams, opportunities for marksmanship training, and between 80-90 color guard opportunities every year. Students also learn personal finance and other life skills in class.

Many students have gone on to military careers. ACHS alumni Ryan Collinsworth graduated in May and asked Davis to be his first salute.

“I went to his graduation the next day,” Davis said. “He’s the second one we’ve had graduate from the Air Force Academy.”

Being an NROTC instructor is very rewarding, according to both Davis and Young.

“You can enlighten them as to what life is going to be about,” Davis said. “And we can give them opportunities. If they don’t want to go to college and go right out and enlist, if they participate for three years they can enlist in the Navy as an E3, which is a lot more money than an E1. We can give them some sort of guidance regarding where they can end up.”

Young said that around 25-percent of the students are passionate about the program when they first sign up, and around 10-percent are more or less pushed into it.

“Those are the ones we have to figure out how to motivate,” he said.

Davis said that NROTC is different than any class or program most students have ever been in.

“But the majority of them, once they give it a couple of weeks, love it,” Davis said. “Try it, and if it’s not for you, you can always take it for one semester and not come back. But for most people, they stick around.”

Eddie Dice has another daughter entering high school this coming school year. She plans to join the NROTC as well.

“I just want them to go in there and learn to respect what people have done before them, so they can do what they do now,” Eddie said. “People have sacrificed so they can do what they do. So they can go to school and play softball, whatever they want, because someone before them went out and defended this country. I want them to understand and respect that.”

The Clinton American Legion Post 172 sponsored Dice’s travel costs.