After five years at the helm of Pahrump Valley High School’s Junior ROTC program, James Hein has decided to hang up his military fatigues.
The retired Army colonel plans to settle down with his wife in Kansas later this year.
Hein began his Army career a year after graduating from high school in 1966, not long after the first wave of U.S. troops arrived in Vietnam.
He said this week that he began his basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina in 1967.
“After basic training, I went to Advanced Individual Training then I was off to Vietnam. After that, I served a tour in Germany and went back to Vietnam in 1972. When I got back, I went to Officers Candidate School and became an officer in 1973. I retired in 1993,” he said.
Reflecting upon his quarter century serving in the Army, Hein said the American military learned valuable lessons over the years.
“If it’s not a popular war with the American people, then don’t enact the draft. I love the Army but a lot of people failed what I called the final test, which is combat. In Vietnam, we lost 55,000. The army has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan with a volunteer Army and so far we have lost close to four to five thousand in 12 years,” he said.
The colonel also had comments on American military campaigns over the past 50 years.
His position is undoubtedly partisan.
“It’s like most wars. Democrats start them and they feel it’s necessary and they usually do it after they cut the military’s funding. Roosevelt cut the Army down to under 500,000 in 1940, and in 1941, the war started. President Obama just cut us to under 500,000. Just look at recent international events where Russia is starting to move in on everybody in the same area where World War I and II started. If you’re not the guy with the biggest stick, you don’t have to use it but the threat is still there,” he said.
At present, Hein’s military status is what’s known as active reserve as he finishes his tenure at PVHS.
He acknowledged that he will miss leading the nation’s future leaders when he is done.
“I have had a great time here. The Junior ROTC program when I arrived here went from 125 students to almost 300, which is almost 25 percent of the school. We have experienced very good growth in ROTC. Our graduation rate in ROTC is about 99 percent and that’s what we do. We try to make better citizens. Not all of kids join the military. It’s probably about 15 to 20 percent who join the military but they still learn leadership, how to get along and cooperate and graduate. A lot of students don’t do that,” Hein said.
One ROTC student who will pursue a military career is Tannis Wright.
The PVHS junior plans to attend UNLV upon graduating.
Wright said he and his fellow ROTC students will greatly miss Heins’s leadership with the program.
“I am really sad that the colonel is moving on. I have known him ever since I joined ROTC and he’s been a very integral part of my experience and it’s really sad to see him move on, but I’m excited for him,” Wright said.
On the topic of leisure time, Hein said he’s still not quite sure what he wants to pursue.
“The first time I retired, I fished, hunted and golfed about all I could and then I went back to work and taught English and history for 15 years. The school district asked me if I would take over the ROTC program because I was the only retired colonel in the district.
Today, Hein will oversee an annual ROTC tradition for the last time as the program is staging its Change of Command ceremony at 1 p.m.
Outgoing Commander Hannah Lane will give a speech before turning over her command to Wright.
Hein said the event is open to the public.