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Popular Sgt. Henry Johnson Battalion Established A National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC) Program, But The U.S. Army Had Not Recognized It As An Official “Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC)” Program – Which Is The Linchpin In Receiving Fed Funding

Budget Constraints Forced Albany To Exhaust Resources & Cap The Highly Successful Pre-Military Program To Only 75 Students – In May, Schumer Went To Bat For School & Successfully Urged Army To Promote Albany School District’s NDCC To JROTC

Schumer: Sgt. Henry Johnson Battalion Will Finally Have Full Recognition & Funding It Needs 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced the U.S. Army has approved Albany High School’s proposal to establish a full-fledged Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program. Until Schumer intervened on the school’s behalf, Albany was forced to run an unfunded version of the Army’s JROTC program, called the National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC). Albany High School’s NDCC calls itself “The Henry Johnson Battalion,” after the famed WWI African American soldier from Albany, NY who fought off a German raiding party in the Argonne Forest, all while saving his sentry partner and unit in the process. That is why, in May 2016, as the nation marked the 98th Anniversary of the “Battle of Henry Johnson,” Schumer visited Albany and argued that it was unfair that this very successful pre-military program be forced to cap its program at 75 students due to lack of funds and resources. Schumer announced today that he successfully urged the Army to fully recognize Albany High School’s NDCC as an official JROTC program, which would open it up to the federal funding it needs to expand and provide more students looking to serve their community and give them the training and skills they need to pursue a career in military service.

“Every day the ‘Henry Johnson Battalion’ at Albany High School commemorates the life and spirit of Sgt. Henry Johnson. This program which was named in his honor, provides students with the opportunities to learn about and train for careers in military service. That’s why, as we marked the 98th anniversary of the ‘Battle of Henry Johnson’ back in May, I urged the Army to promote Albany School Districts’ NDCC program to a fully recognized JROTC program. I was so moved by the cadets I met when I visited in May, and their heartfelt stories of how much this program has meant to them. Each cadet talked about how their self-esteem, sense of responsibility and academics have all been boosted since they joined the Henry Johnson Battalion. It was clear to me that this is a great program and deserved to be expanded,” said Senator Schumer. “Today, I’m pleased to announce that they’ve heeded our call and, by next month, Albany will have the full recognition and funding it needs to make sure every student who wants to join the program in time for the 99th Anniversary can do just that. This promotion is going to transform and expand the current program – making room for more students, providing funding for additional instructors and new equipment, and enabling Albany to compete in national JRTOC competitions.”

Schumer explained that Albany High School has been running a very successful pre-military program for students called “The Henry Johnson Battalion,” named after African-American WWI hero and Albany resident, Sgt. Henry Johnson. Schumer worked tirelessly from 1999 to last year to secure the Medal of Honor for Sgt. Johnson who, due to racism and segregation, was denied this country’s highest military honor for his heroics – until President Obama awarded the medal posthumously in June of 2015. Schumer explained that Albany’s NDCC program is named in Johnson’s honor, and many of the young men and women taking part in the NDCC program at Albany High see him as a role model.

However, Schumer said that, until now, the program was prevented from expanding due to lack of funding. Because NDCC is the unfunded version of the nationally recognized U.S. Army JROTC program, it does not receive the same financial support a JROTC program does and it is continually short on resources. Due to this lack of funds, Schumer said Albany was forced cap its program at 75 students in the 2015-2016 school year, thereby turning away high school students who are looking to learn more about and train for careers in military service.

In May, Schumer visited Albany High and pushed the Army to establish Albany’s current NDCC as a full JROTC program, citing that it would be a disservice to students who are merely left out of an academically beneficial program due to lack of a federal designation and full funding. Schumer said that while the Army’s JROTC program is understandably limited and selective, Albany’s program was placed this year on the JROTC “Order of Merit List,” but deserved to be approved, fully funded and recognized.

With this new designation and full funding – which will become official in October – Schumer said the school would no longer be required to limit its program. The school previously estimated that, with funding, the Henry Johnson Battalion could potentially be expanded to 120 students. Schumer said this could give more students the opportunity to join the battalion this fall semester and 2016-2017 academic year. Schumer said this will be a tremendous way to keep Sgt. Henry Johnson’s legacy of honor and service to his hometown and his country alive.

“We are so ecstatic at this news and the wonderful opportunities that it will present for our students at Albany High School,” said City School District of Albany Interim Superintendent Kimberly Young Wilkins, Ed.D. “This will change the trajectory and the outcomes for so many of our students. We are grateful to Sen. Schumer for his support and leadership in making this dream a reality for our students at Albany High.”

“This is such a significant step forward to allow our school district another opportunity to engage our students around a valuable program in which they have demonstrated extremely strong interest and commitment,” said Albany Board of Education President Kenneth M. Bruce. “In addition to the opportunities JROTC provides, it also teaches important soft skills such as leadership and self-discipline that are so necessary to be successful in life. It was a game-changer for me, and I think it can be game-changer for so many of our students. Our sincerest thanks to Sen. Schumer for helping to expand the opportunities available to our high school students.”

A copy of Schumer’s original letter to the U.S. Army appears below:

Dear Undersecretary of the Army Patrick Murphy and Major General Combs,

I write to urge the Army to establish a full Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program at Albany High School, which currently runs an unfunded version of this program called the National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC) that they wish to expand.  Please note that this is the 98th anniversary of the "Battle of Henry Johnson," and, as you know, Sgt. Johnson was an African American soldier from Albany, NY who fought off a German raiding party in the Argonne Forest, saving his sentry partner and unit in the process. I led the effort to secure the Medal of Honor for Johnson, which President Obama awarded last summer. In honor of Sgt. Johnson, the Albany High School NDCC corps calls itself the “The Henry Johnson Battalion.”

Nearly a century after Sgt. Johnson’s heroics Albany High School has established a very successful National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC).   It is very popular, but this year it and had to be capped at 75 students due to the lack of funding.  Albany High has a disproportionate minority population which is mirrored in the program.   The participating students have improved their academics, their attendance rates, have fewer discipline issues, and increased their engagement within the school community.

It would be a tremendous and enduring tribute to Henry Johnson, and a much-needed opportunity for the students there eager to serve our nation, for the Army to establish a full JROTC program at Albany High School.   It is wonderful that so many years later, these young men and women, identify with Sgt. Johnson and view him as a role model.   They know that he was a citizen solider from Albany’s Arbor Hill neighborhood, who performed extraordinarily when called upon by his country, and they are inspired to do the same. For these reasons, and others, it is America’s and the Army’s best interest to provide a full JROTC program to the students at Albany High School.

I understand that due to sequestration (an overly constrictive formulation, which I have fought to undo), funding for the JROTC program is limited, and that Albany’s NDCC program has been placed on the JROTC “Order of Merit List.” Further, I have been told that eight programs were scheduled for closure in FY ‘16, and four new programs established. Therefore, I request your assistance to award Albany High School a full-fledged JROTC.   The school estimates, that with funding, the corps will be expanded to 120 students this fall.   What a tremendous way to keep Sgt. Henry Johnson’s legacy of honor and service to his hometown and his country alive!

Again, I urge you to award a JROTC to Albany High School, and stand ready to assist in any way that I can.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly, if you would like to discuss this matter further.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator