One glance at Wayne Howard and it's easy to tell what he's all about.


The shine on his completely shaved bald head is matched by the glisten of well-polished black military shoes. Sporting a bulldog build the fit 48-year-old is also a wrestling coach Howard is 100 percent drill sergeant.


"Your shoes look nice," he quietly but firmly tells an Oak Hills High School JROTC cadet. "Did you do them yourself?"


But Howard's weekly in-rank inspections can go either way for a cadet, especially if he or she doesn't fulfill class obligations.


"You've got a lot of potential," he tells one cadet who lost his beret. "Don't hold yourself back."


And there are important life lessons to be learned.


"You can't treat them like soldiers, but you have to teach them military values," he said later. "They're not soldiers. It's a leadership course that teaches them to have the courage to not follow the wrong way."


1st Sgt. Howard was a military policeman during part of his 20 years in the U.S. Army. But when he became a drill sergeant his life view completely changed. Between barking orders and demanding results he realized something important: "I loved teaching." So instead of the requisite two years, he stayed on as drill sergeant for an extra year.


When he retired in 2001 he began teaching high school JROTC. And Howard was so good at teaching that the national Troops To Teachers program, which encourages retired soldiers to go into education, awarded him the state's Teacher of the Year.


"I love making an impact with our youth. I love being able to impact their decisions in the right way."


Last summer Howard founded the OHHS JROTC, the first U.S. Army-based JROTC program in the area. The program already is up to 96 cadets.


"The program is growing in the same year that it started, which is unusual," Howard said.


Similar programs are typically certified after two or three years, but the National Defense Cadet Corp. has notified Howard that full status will come next school year.


"It's because of the growth and potential of our program. We've been moved up the order of merit list. The kids don't realize what a big step that is."


It's also good news for the school district. The full JROTC status means half of his salary will come from a federal grant. "It allows us to have a second instructor."


Oak Hills' JROTC program members already have participated in parades and competitions. And they've been impressive.


"We're taking first place in some events. Not only are the kids enthused, but they're talented."


Howard also encourages students to continue in the ROTC program, which could lead to a free college education.


"JROTC is an excellent way to get to college."


But for Howard it's not all about awards and recognitions, or even a college education. He's keenly aware that high school students often have more immediate lessons to be learned.


"I tell them, 'It's up to you. You don't have to do the wrong thing. You can do the right thing.' I teach them the personal courage to do that."