The Junior ROTC program is expanding and gaining popularity - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

The Junior ROTC program is expanding and gaining popularity

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WALLA WALLA, Wash.-- -

The Junior ROTC program is expanding and gaining popularity among students. Recently the Walla Walla School district put in a new rifle range to help recruit more students for their Junior ROTC program. The high tech rifle range is at Walla Walla High School and is one of only two that are in high schools across America. Students use an automated targeting system to monitor their shooting.

Instructors say the new high tech equipment helps better prepare their students for national competitions. Lt. Col. Bill Bialozor says "it gives the kids the opportunity to enter into a higher level competition. Last year we sent 2 or 3 folks. With a facility like this we're given the opportunity and tools to succeed and now have 10 kids going to nationals."

More than 120 students are enrolled so far in Walla Walla High School's Junior ROTC program and it's still growing. The program started in 1916. Students are involved in everything from drill, precision rifle and fitness training.

Rifle Team Coach Mark Mebes says "we have students that take it just because they like to shoot. We have students that take it because they want to learn how to shoot and we have students that take it so they can get their hunters certification and can hunt in the Fall."

The shooting range was put in this summer for the rifle team because more students have been joining Junior ROTC. The sport has been here for a long time and is one of the school's most popular activities. Student Kyle Jameson says "my favorite part is definitely the competition. Competing and getting to shoot and go to drill meets."

Students can earn credits for the shooting courses that will go toward graduation. The program helps cover credits for health requirements, career and technical education classes and history.