Major Chris Robertson joins Waipahu JROTC as Senior Army Instructor


Photo courtesy of Chris Robertson

Major Chris Robertson (right) with previous students.

Chris Robertson, a retired Major in the United States Army, worked as a multifunctional logistician before becoming a senior army instructor (SAI) at Nanakuli High & Intermediate School. He joined the Marauder Battalion as the new SAI in July due to the previous SAI, Colonel Ranelle Manaois, taking up another position.

“I really wanted to apply for the Waipahu position, and it’s primarily because of the legacy that I already heard about you guys, the reputation that Waipahu has. I had heard so much about Mr. Hayashi and what a visionary he is as a principal here in Hawaii and I knew that if I had the opportunity to work for Mr. Hayashi, I needed to jump on that opportunity,” Robertson says.

Robertson made up his mind to be an SAI for high school students while volunteering at a training camp (JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge) with JROTC high schoolers. As his retirement from the Army got closer, he became certified and eager to teach as a high school JROTC instructor.

Although Robertson taught at Nanakuli for 7 years, there are still certain activities he would like to implement at Waipahu. Nanakuli was known for participating in as many events as they could. Robertson would like to take the same approach with Waipahu and participate in events like the Great Aloha Run, Raider events (athletics), and Drill competitions (Marching/Rifles).

Due to the spread of COVID-19, Robertson faces the same challenges as other SAIs. Since the JROTC program has many in-person events, the instructors are challenged with many obstacles. How will they issue uniforms? How will they run physical training (PT)? How will they teach Drill and Ceremony (DC)? “As long as we’re not in school, we’re not going to be able to do those things and I honestly started thinking, what could we do instead of uniform? What could we do instead of Drill Competitions?” Robertson says.

Robertson explains his thought process for adjusting to the situation: “I knew we needed to do some kind of competition/fun event that would still get everybody involved and hopefully increase the morale or our battalion.”

Another problem all JROTC instructors face is building and maintaining relationships with their cadets. Robertson explains that at Nanakuli he would find time before, during and after school to talk to cadets. In spite of not being able to do that anymore, Major created office hours after school so cadets can join to seek help or to just talk.

Cadets have most frequently asked Robertson why he runs so much. Robertson says, “What really motivates me to run is ice cream.” During his service, Robertson admits he didn’t like running due to his higher ups telling him to. Now, Robertson gets to choose to run and has fallen in love with it again.

A JROTC instructor’s job is to motivate young adults to become better citizens, and that means being a better leader.

Robertson defines what being a leader means: “When you can put aside your own goals and thoughts for an organization and inspire people to do something they may or may not really want to do and make it feel like it’s their idea and they have ownership of it, I think you’ve established yourself as a leader.”