Chief Master Sergeant Michael Galifaro has been an instructor for Tivy High School’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) program since 2019. He is well suited for the job, having spent 33 years in the Air Force, including 25 years in training programs, with 14 of those as a drill instructor. When Galifaro retired from the Air Force in 2013, he followed up on a friend’s advice to look into the AFJROTC program. It was a good fit, and he spent eight years as an instructor at Cypress Springs High School prior to moving to Kerrville. He finds this job extremely rewarding, despite long hours and weekend involvement in extracurricular activities.
Q: What is the concept and difference between AFROTC and AFJROTC programs?
A: AFROTC is a college level program that, after successful completion of a four-year accredited degree program, leads to a commission in the Air Force. AFJROTC is a high school elective course whose mission is to “Develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community.”
AFJROTC is not an (Air Force) recruitment program, and cadets are never under any obligation to join the military.
Q: Tell us more about the history of the AFJROTC program at Tivy High School.
A: All branches of the military have JROTC programs, and the selection is up to each school district. In 2006, the KISD district superintendent signed an agreement with the Air Force, making Tivy High School the third unit in Texas to be awarded this program. Each AFJROTC program has an officer and an enlisted instructor. At Tivy, Colonel Bobby Woods is the officer, and I fill the enlisted position.
Q: Who funds the AFJROTC program, and how much does it cost to participate?
A: The U.S. Government funds half of the program’s costs, including instructor pay, uniforms, replica rifles, flags and supplies. The cadets are only responsible for the cost of cleaning and maintaining their uniforms.
Q: What are some basic requirements for cadets?
A: This is an academically accredited and inclusive program open to students from ninth to 12th grades. Students must be physically qualified, maintain acceptable standards of conduct and comply with personal grooming standards. Cadets attend one (JROTC) class period a day, and they may join one or more of our extracurricular teams such as rocketry, drill or drone training. These teams practice after school and perform at special events during evenings and weekends. We are also heavily involved in community events and volunteer opportunities.
Q: How does participation in this program benefit cadets?
A: We see a significant transformation in our cadets. Our program is a “leadership laboratory” – the cadets run everything. The lessons learned here help them become more confident and successful as they become productive citizens. In 2021, three cadets received full college scholarships and two cadets were chosen to attend the AF Flight Academy (to gain their private pilot licenses). Students also experience a sense of belonging and bond with their fellow cadets. They look to them as their second family. We’re also big on manners, and it’s always, “Yes, Sir,” and “Yes, Ma’am.” Additionally, first-year cadets earn a PE credit. If cadets decide to join the military after graduation, they join at higher pay grades based on their years in AFJROTC.
Q: How many students apply for the program each year?
A: Based on retention/recruitment numbers, we usually have 100-110 cadets per year, including about 40 incoming freshmen. Many cadets continue in the program for four years.
Q: Do you see many young women enrolling?
A: Absolutely. It is pretty consistent at about 40:60 (female to male ratio), and we’re seeing many young women pursuing leadership roles.
Q: Are parents encouraged to get involved, too?
A: We have many parents who participate in our community activities. One example would be our Adopt-a-Highway program: Sixty kids may sign up and 10 parents may volunteer as well. We couldn’t do this without them.
Q: What do you find your biggest challenge to be?
A: We have strict standards for our cadets, and they must abide by them. These include regulation haircuts for young men, modest fingernail colors and no multi-colored hair for young ladies. Cadets must also wear a uniform once a week and keep it maintained. We review the standards at the beginning of each school year for understanding. Most cadets have no problem with the standards, but if any “push the limit,” they may require more attention.
Nancy Foster has written for Texas Hill Country Culture since its beginning and says, “It’s an honor to write about the fabulous people and places in our area.” She and husband Raymond have lived in Kerrville for 10 years. She heads Foster Tourism Marketing and also writes for Allegiant Airlines inflight magazine.