KINGSVILLE, Texas — A pair of veterans of the global war on terror are now training kids who could become the military's next generation of leaders.
Four years ago, both of H.M. King High School’s JROTC instructors were new. One with experience, one without. In a short time, they've turned their group into one of South Texas' best.
For one of them however, it was a tough choice after getting out of the U.S. Army.
“When it was time to leave, it was heartbreaking, I wasn't ready to go,” said Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Carlos Camacho.
Camacho never thought he'd be a teacher. After more than 20 years in the Army and facing a draw-down, Camacho decided to retire. The next step for the Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, however, was unclear. That's when Camacho got the phone call which would put him back on duty.
“A friend of mine reached out and said ‘the Camacho I know, he's a leader, he's a motivator, he knows what to do in circumstances like this’,” Camacho said.
The friend suggested Camacho become a Junior Reserve Officers Training Course instructor. That led him to Kingsville ISD and H.M. King High School. Four years later, Camacho says it's one of the best decisions he ever made.
“ I am blessed to be here,” said Camacho. “I love what I do, I love teaching these kids new experiences, life skills that they're going to carry through their years.”
Camacho took to teaching like a duck to water.
“I call him 'The Natural’,” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) James Troia. “He's just a natural with the kids, he has charisma with the kids, hw's out there marching them, he builds teams.”
Like Camacho, Troia also came to H.M. King before the 2017-18 school year. He had previously worked with Texas A&M Kingsville’s ROTC program, as well as a JROTC program in Edinburgh.
That first year was eye-opening.
“(In) 2017-18, two new instructors, we got hit with this inspection,” sad Camacho. “I didn't know what I was coming into, we failed by five points.”
That inspection was the JROTC Program Accreditation. On their most recent inspection, the group scored 97 out of 100, which won them a coveted gold star. A far cry from where the program was four years ago. Camacho gives all the credit to the cadets.
“Every time my kids do great, I don't take the credit,” said Camacho. “It's not about me, it's about the kids.”
Camacho says he never got a chance at promotion to Sgt. 1st Class while he was in the Army. He says if he had, he believes he would have been promoted, and would likely still be in the Army.
His future, and the futures of the H.M. King JROTC program would have been very different.