A recent grant for the Thomas County School System has provided start-up costs for a National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC) program, a program that will eventually become a full-fledged Army Junior ROTC unit to serve students from both Bishop Hall Charter School and Thomas County Central High School.
This is the inaugural year for the Army NDCC in Thomas County which will operate exactly like a JROTC program. The program is organized as two battalions: the Knight Battalion at Bishop Hall Charter School and the Yellow Jacket Battalion at Thomas County Central High School. Lieutenant Colonel Kevin “Buzz” Ingram is the Senior Army Instructor and will oversee both programs. Prior to coming to Thomas County Schools, he served as the Senior Army JROTC Instructor at Ware County High School in Waycross, Georgia.
LTC Ingram said, “I am beyond excited to be here and start something special. This program is unique in that it’s not just one program, but two. I am establishing different battalions at Bishop Hall and Thomas County Central, embracing the culture and traditions at each school. Collectively, we are the 59th Cadet Regiment, paying tribute to the US Army Air Corps’ 59th Fighter Group that called Thomas County home in the early to mid-1940s. The legacy of the men and women of the greatest generation will live on in our cadets in the 21st century.”
NDCC/JROTC instructors are not military recruiters; however, they are the best advocates for all students in the recruiting process. The program’s mission is "to motivate young people to be better citizens.” According to LTC Ingram, they accomplish this through an immersive, leadership-in-action approach that challenges cadets academically, mentally, socially, and physically.
“This leadership program provides unique opportunities to help students develop those professional skills necessary to lead and work in today’s evolving environment,” LTC Ingram said. “We cherish the responsibility and opportunity we have to lead, guide, and direct our students in making those decisions about life after high school whether it's college, the military, or going straight into the workforce.”
LTC Ingram earned his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Thomas College. He received his commission from Florida State University after completing ROTC in the Seminole Battalion. Later, LTC Ingram earned his M.Ed. from the University of Georgia and a Master of Military Operational Art and Science from Air University at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB.
Originally from Cairo, Georgia, LTC Ingram had the distinct honor of being the only ROTC scholarship student and Army officer commissioned from a short lived cross-enrolled ROTC program at Thomas College with Florida State University.
“NDCC/JROTC goes beyond the classroom and will provide cadets the chance to participate and compete at the region and state level in our competitive color guard and drill teams as well as the team-focused physical fitness Raider Challenge team,” LTC Ingram said. “Our cadets will provide community and school support through color guard and service learning projects. Their success is limitless and the skills and memories they take with them beyond graduation can last a lifetime.”
LTC Ingram has high hopes for the two battalions.
“We enjoyed a lot of success at Ware County over the past three years, including three State Championships and numerous region championships in drill and one region championship in Raider,” LTC Ingram added. “I intend to bring that same fire and energy to Thomas County and establish ourselves as a force to contend with in our region and across the state. That kind of success takes time, but the support we have in this school system is the catalyst to make it happen. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we will build a solid foundation in 2020-2021 - one brick at a time.”
The new NDCC program will offer the opportunity for high school students to enroll in a leadership/citizenship program coordinated under the umbrella of the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Division of the Georgia Department of Education. The classes will be offered as an elective as part of the CTAE programs at both schools, and will be housed in the Lee M. Bailey P.R.E.P. Academy at TCCHS and in the CTAE building at Bishop Hall.