Military training programme for teens expands in US

CHICAGO, Dec 1, 2007 (AFP) – Dozens of teens dressed in uniforms provided by the US Marines stand at attention in the gym of a Chicago public high school as a drill sergeant goes through a list of the day’s do’s and don’ts. Bring your books to class. Come for extra help if you need it. And wear your uniform with pride.

“Young men, you think you can get a haircut and say I’m done for two or three weeks. WRONG,” Sgt. Major Thomas Smith Jr. intones.

“Young ladies. There’s been no problem with your uniforms but there is a problem with your ties. Again, I will go through it again. Wear your ties when you come to my class.”

One in 10 public high school students in Chicago wears a military uniform to school and takes classes — including how to shoot a gun — from retired veterans.

That number is expected to rise as junior military reserve programmes expand across the country now that a congressional cap of 3,500 units has been lifted from the nearly century-old scheme.

Proponents of the junior reserve programmes say they provide stability and a sense of purpose for troubled youth and help to instill values such as leadership and responsibility.

But opponents say the programmes divert critical resour