VINTON–Master Sergeant Allen Culbreth is the new Aerospace Science Instructor for the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Program (JROTC) at William Byrd High School. He is replacing Senior Master Sergeant Paul Richardson who retired during the summer.
Culbreth is originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina. He graduated from Terry Sanford High School, where he was a member of their JROTC program. He said he was always interested in a military career and in airplanes. He entered the Air Force out of high school and later earned his degree from Excelsior College while serving in the military.
He comes from a military family. His father retired from the Army as a captain, his grandfather as a lieutenant colonel.
He will shortly retire from the Air Force having served for over 20 years.
Culbreth was first stationed in Pirinclik, Turkey, as a member of the security police. His next assignment was to Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina, again serving in the security police and then as loadmaster, supervising the loading and unloading of military cargo planes including C-17’s, C-130’s, and C-141’s. Cargoes included anything the Air Force needed from supplies to helicopters. C-17’s have the capacity to transport M-1 tanks.
He went on to serve as loadmaster or loadmaster instructor at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington, Altus AFB in Oklahoma, Hickam AFB in Hawaii, Cannon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico, and Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque during his Air Force career.
Culbreth met his wife in the Air Force where she also worked as a loadmaster.
With retirement looming, he saw the JROTC job posted for William Byrd and was drawn to the position because it gave him an “opportunity to give back” to what got him where he is today.
He did a phone interview with Lt. Col. Jay Thompson, the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor (SASI) at William Byrd. Invited to Roanoke County for a full interview, Culbreth discovered that coincidentally he and Thompson both graduated from the same high school (seven years apart), and that both were certified scuba diving instructors, and avid Harley owners.
Culbreth was attracted to the small town atmosphere and the great outdoor recreational opportunities in the Roanoke Valley, with the advantages of a city nearby.
He and his wife are in the process of buying a home in Vinton. They have few ties specifically to the Vinton area although Culbreth did live in Amherst County for a time as a child when his mother worked in Lynchburg. He does have family relatively close by in the Mooresville and Asheville areas of North Carolina.
Culbreth’s other interests include his three dogs, surfing, Tough Mudder fitness training, CrossFit, and running marathons. He may consider giving the Blue Ridge marathon a try.
Although he has not worked with high school students before, Culbreth has spent several years in training young men and women in the Air Force.
At WBHS Culbreth will teach the “Science of Flight” class, coach the Raider team, and work with the Color Guard and drill teams.
JROTC classes include cadets on all grade levels and rotate over a three year curriculum. Last year’s topic was survival; next year’s will be aviation history.
Normally the SASI teaches the classes, but with Culbreth’s career as a loadmaster with airborne experience, Thompson decided that he might lend some real life perspective to the course.
The stated objectives of JROTC are to educate and train high school cadets in citizenship, promote community service, instill responsibility, character, and self-discipline, and provide instruction in air and space fundamentals. The program is grounded in the Air Force core values of “integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.”
The mission and goals of the JROTC program involve team building, character building, and leadership training. Their motto is “Building Better Citizens for America.”
In speaking with a group of incoming freshmen on August 20, Thompson and Culbreth emphasized that the JROTC is not a recruiting tool for the Air Force. Student cadets do not make a military commitment by joining the JROTC. In fact statistics show that 80 percent of JROTC members do not enter military service.
However, membership in the JROTC is an impressive addition to a job resume and may lead to college scholarships and a higher rank if a cadet does pursue a military career.
The two instructors discussed the standards of the Corps with the incoming cadets, about half of whom were young women, and answered questions. There was some discussion as to expected standards of appearance, in particular haircuts and colors, tattoos, piercings, and the uniform requirement on one day each week.
Students were told that it is entirely possible to participate in the JROTC and school athletic teams.
In addition to a rigorous curriculum and drills, Thompson and Culbreth plan to “pack lots of fun” into the JROTC program this year with added field trips and competitions. The Raider team will be going to Nationals in November for first time. A trip is planned to VMI (Thompson’s alma mater) for a parade and football game this fall.
A two-night trip is planned to Washington, D.C., where the cadets will visit various attractions such as the Air and Space Museum, the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, and the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico.
One goal is to make the field trips affordable for all JROTC members. Instead of staying in a hotel, the Washington trip will make use of last year’s training in survival skills by having cadets stay at a group campsite.
A new air rifle team is being formed thanks to a grant from the National Rifle Association which allowed them to purchase eight air rifles.
The William Byrd JROTC is well-known throughout the region for community service. Cadets participate in numerous special events including Veteran’s Day Flag Retirement ceremonies, parades, the Vinton Relay for Life, color guard presentations at a variety of venues, and Vinton festivals. Those activities will continue and expand during the 2015-2016 school year.