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New NJROTC head is a straight-talking Marine

Posted Friday, May 14, 2010, at 2:52 PM

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Major Robin White (Greene County Daily World/Nick Schneider)
Anytime there is a change in leadership there is some uncertainty.

Such will be the case in the ranks of the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) when the next school year rolls around at Bloomfield Jr./Sr. High School.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Major Robin White has been hired to take over for the retiring Senior Chief Tom Tippery in the leadership role for the award-winning NJROTC as the enlisted staff member.

Wednesday was his first face-to-face meeting with the new cadets and their parents.

White left little doubt that he's expecting to continue the tradition of excellence formed by Tippery since he founded the NJROTC program in 1985.

White, who was the guest speaker at the NJROTC awards program, has been a Naval Science instructor in the Anderson Community School Corporation since 2001.

He's a guy who is passionate about life, military and excited to join the Bloomfield unit.

"All I can tell you is you are either going to love me or hate me. Mondays you love me. Tuesdays you hate me," the former Marine drill instructor said. "But I'm going to support you. If you are doing wrong, I'm going to tell you that you are wrong. If you good, we're going to tell you what you are doing good. We're going to try to build that balance because in the military we teach you knowledge, which is your academics. ... Physical fitness, you've got to be healthy and maintain a lifestyle that is going to keep you that way. And, the last leg is your spiritual side. I don't know where you are at spiritually, what you believe in and what you stand for, but to be successful, you have to challenge yourself in all three of those areas."

White, the married father for five children, knows what he's talking about.

He retired after 25 years of infantry experience in the Marine Çorps. He formerly served as a drill instructor and an officer candidate instructor for both the Navy and the Marines.

White is a native of Indiana, raised in the Plainfield area in suburban Indianapolis.

His father was raised in Petersburg and his mother hailed from Princeton.

When he heard the Bloomfield position was open, he was immediately interested.

He has knowledge of the caliber of the cadets in the program because he's been an instructor at the summer boot camps and the rifle competitions attended by the local unit.

"I'm happy the administration saw fit to go ahead and give me a shot here," he explained.

White enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1975 and retired in 2000. He started as an artillery forward observer and then assigned to an infantry unit. White has experience as a drill instructor, officer candidate instructor for both the Navy and Marine Corps. White also has been a military instructor at the University of Texas and Texas Tech University.

White urged the NJROTC's six graduating seniors to take advantage of the life doors that are open to them.

"It's up to you, it's your life. There is nothing saying that you can't go in this direction or this direction. Don't settle for where you are at. Continue to challenge yourself," he stressed. "It's your life. You have got to be happy, but challenge yourself."

The NJROTC program includes classroom studies in naval history, citizenship, astronomy, oceanography, meteorology, and seamanship.

White will be joined on the staff by U.S. Navy Retired Lt. Commander Frank Starr, who will fill the Naval Science position that has been vacant since the retirement of Lt. Commander Ostergren at the end of the 2008-09 school year.

Starr's hiring is effective July 1. He currently is the Assistant Commander of Cadets for Operations at Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala.

In the NJROTC program, cadets learn basic military values -- discipline, leadership and respect for authority.

Sgt. Major White said he's looking forward to working with the cadets and being a mentor, teacher and a friend.

"I want to be respectful. You will hear me yell a lot. I'm sorry, that is what sergeant majors in the Marine Corps do. We are never happy," he said with a laugh. "There is an old saying that a complaining or griping Marine is a happy Marine. Cadets, I get loud ... but remember it's all with love.

"Seriously, I look forward to establishing a relationship with you guys and seeing you continue to succeed. Whatever you guys want do with your lives, I want to see you get the successes and blessings that are out there for you."

He paraphrased a Biblical passage from the Book of Corinthians that says "you need to stand for something or you won't stand at all."

"You young men and women here, you need to start thinking about what you stand for and what you represent. What I see here in uniform I am very impressed with because that is what our country needs," White stressed. "We need more like you (cadets) stepping up and learning to make sacrifices. I don't mean war and the military. I mean personal sacrifices of service to others. Whether you serve a day in the military doesn't matter. Whatever community you end up, you need to be a serving citizen."

Welcome to Greene County Sgt. Major White. You have big shoes to fill, but I am sure you will carry on the tradition of the Bloomfield NJROTC.

Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at schneider.nick@gmail.com .

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