WAPAKONETA — Jesse Mckenzie, 17, an incoming senior at Wapakoneta High School, is looking forward to his final year.
“I play tennis. I’m in a lot of clubs here at Wapakoneta High School,” Mckenzie said. “I try really hard in school. I’ve gotten a 4.0 every year. I take a lot of College Credit Plus classes, and I’m in the Ohio Army National Guard.”
That’s right. At 17, he’s a member of the National Guard.
“It’s a split option training program. It’s called RSP. It’s the Recruit Sustainment Program, and we get some basic training,” he said. “Then this summer I’ll go to basic training for the Army, and then I will return to RSP for the following year as a leader. Then next summer, I will do my job training and enter where I’ll actually go to a normal drill and perform my job.”
He’s been in the program for a little more than four months and is excited to serve his country.
“There’s a lot of benefits through college, you know, the GI Bill. There are retirement benefits. There’s just everything you could think of in the military,” he said. “It’s the ability to help people through the National Guard on the home front, not necessarily deploying overseas, which you can do, but also being to help with our hurricane victims that we have every single year. It’s being able to help people within the United States while being a soldier in the military and having the opportunity to go overseas, if needed.”
He’s still undecided what route he’ll take, outside of the National Guard.
“I’ve looked at everything from apprenticeships to trade schools to normal colleges, and I’ve been looking into West Point, the military academy in New York,” he said. “Right now I’m set on some type of engineering (career). I haven’t decided yet. Either engineering or some sort of space science or aerospace engineering, either way, engineering’s going to be a component.”
He’s even excited about the possibility of being involved in the newly proposed Space Force.
“At West Point, they have one of the best space science and aeronautical engineering programs in the nation, so that would definitely be a good route to go because the Space Force is supposed to launch in 2020, which by that time I would just be graduating high school,” he said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.