The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2021 has become law. This new law is important because it includes an educational provision that allows operations as part of an educational program that is chartered by a community-based organization (CBO), such as AMA, or as an established Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC) program for educational or research purposes.
In fall 2019, the AMA Education, Government Affairs, and Partnership and Sales departments met with an official from the U.S. Air Force JROTC at AMA Headquarters in Muncie, Indiana. Several topics were discussed. After this meeting, talks with U.S. Air Force JROTC officials continued, eventually leading to AMA and JROTC signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on December 23, 2020. A portion of the MOU states, “The purpose of this MOU is to formalize the relationship between these two organizations, and to collaborate on programs that nurture and support the growth of aviation education and youth development while being respectful of each organization’s mission. This cooperation will include setting of mutual goals, program development, promotion, and operational review.”
The JROTC is a military-regulated program designed to offer high school students leadership experiences and motivate them through a combination of classroom instruction, community service, extracurricular and social activities, and the opportunity to serve in leadership roles.
If you read through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), you will notice that the JROTC is mentioned in it. After the bill was first proposed, JROTC worked with AMA and Congress on this provision.
“As far as advocacy, having a strong relationship with both the JROTC and Civil Air Patrol (CAP) really furthers our cause,” AMA Education Director Kyle Jaracz commented. “If an issue arises, if legislation is proposed, we have the open channels of communication to address that as a unified front, rather than as an individual entity.”
“While lawmakers are familiar with both AMA and JROTC, joining forces makes us an even louder voice,” stated AMA Government Affairs Director Tyler Dobbs.
The CAP is also a military entity that teaches leadership, aerospace sciences, fitness, and character building.
Kyle, Tyler, and other AMA officials are happy with how the NDAA turned out. “That would have been a major concern in terms of our educational mission,” Kyle stated about the original bill. “AMA and others in the industry worked to remove language restricting JROTC and other government entities from purchasing and using foreign-made UAS.” The original bill included a provision prohibiting federal agencies, such as the JROTC and the CAP, from using foreign-made UAS and UAS equipment in the US. This would have included model aircraft.
As part of the NDAA, university-level UAS operations, such as University Model Aviation Student Clubs (UMASC), will continue to be permitted within CBO programming or as a standalone UAS program.
According to the AMA’s blog post about the NDAA being passed, “AMA’s success in getting these legislative protections included are a great win for UAS STE(A)M curriculum because it allows for the continuation of educational UAS programming that has been in place for decades.”
If you didn’t already know it, education is an important part of AMA’s mission. As many AMA members have proven, aeromodeling can be a steppingstone to careers in the full-scale aviation industry. Teenagers looking to learn more about the aerospace industry often start with model aircraft through the JROTC or CAP.
“The Civil Air Patrol is a great organization,” Kyle stated. “It is financed by Department of Defense funding (through the U.S. Air Force) for the most part. The AMA and CAP have had a long history. The CAP really enjoys bringing AMA into its units. It has depended upon the AMA for years now to recommend aircraft for the organization to use—fixed wing, multirotor, and Free Flight. It has a grant process on its end where units can apply for these training aids. We make those kits for them and send them out. We’re happy to get aircraft in the hands of kids. It’s a good partnership that we’ve developed,” Kyle added.
Kyle explained that the CAP units use the aircraft in conjunction with aviation education. The cadets learn the basics of flight, participate in team aircraft building, and use flight simulators. Some of the units travel to model aviation club fields, flying sites, and classrooms in an effort to interest other youth in aviation. “It’s something that definitely encourages a love of aviation,” Kyle said.
CAP units have helped out at the AMA Nats. Nearly each summer, CAP cadets can be found at the RC Combat event, where they time for the pilots and cook meals for them.
AMA’s relationship with CAP has a long history. In January 2011, AMA signed a MOU with the CAP. Later that year, AMA members were asked to support the CAP in its effort to get World War II volunteers recognized with a group Congressional Gold Medal.
Some AMA members have mentioned being linked with CAP in their AMA History Project biographies. Alvin Davis, for example, began working for the CAP in 1942 and his job was to promote model aviation among its cadets.
Today, educating youth about the hobby is something that continues in the CAP, JROTC, and through the EAA. “We can all mutually support each other,” Kyle noted. “We all have a goal of enjoying aviation. That mission is one that is shared, offering education and inspiration that furthers the cause of aviation for the entire country.”
In the MOU that AMA signed with the U.S. Air Force JROTC, it is stated that “AMA has a mission to foster and promote all phases of model aviation and community, and the Air Force JROTC has a mission to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community.”
If you are part of the JROTC or CAP and would like to team up with an AMA club, use the club finder.