A NEW ENVIRONMENT: 1SG Sosa is working on the 20-day count, a report that confirms the exact number of cadets in the county by school, service, LET level and gender. He has been working diligently in the Department of Army Instruction office to coordinate JROTC events and to maintain instructor and cadet records. Photo courtesy of Major Thomas Johnson
By Nikita Chen and Marcos Ortega
Since 2008, First Sergeant Ernest Sosa has been passionately teaching and mentoring hundreds of West Broward Students in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp Program (JROTC). With 22 years of experience in the military, his quiet but strong leadership has prepared these young cadets to not just embrace the present, but diligently work to create a strong future for themselves and each other. After 13 years, First Sergeant (1SG) Sosa has left West Broward to embark on a new career that was motivated by his most impressionable formative years and roots as a foster child.
JROTC is a leadership class that teaches cadets public speaking and leadership skills. From 2008 to the end of the 2020 school year, 1SG Sosa worked with the LET 1s, first year cadets in JROTC. He taught them the many lessons he learned from living as a foster child and inspired them to work toward their dreams no matter the cards they were dealt. Now working as an operations and logistics specialist in the Department of the Army Instruction office, he will seize responsibility for the 31 JROTC programs in Broward County.
“I always made two promises to my students: that they graduate high school with the highest academic average of their potential, and that they leave the classroom every day as a better person,” 1SG Sosa said. “I really believe deep in my soul that we were able to accomplish both of those promises within the past 12 years.”
Before becoming a teacher at West Broward, 1SG Sosa served in the military for 22 years. He served as an infantry scout for 10 years and was hired as an intelligence analyst for 12 years at the US Southern Command. During this time he also served as a Sniper and Drill instructor and became Airborne Qualified.
“How did that prepare me for JROTC? It really didn’t. But it did prepare me to be very patient,” 1SG Sosa said. “In that field, you have to be very patient. It made me have an analytical mind of thinking.”
He applied his experience in the military to teaching. The JROTC program first began with cadets from other schools before growing to include many schools in Broward County. After years of 1SG Sosa’s teaching, the program began to receive multiple awards, building up a solid foundation for years to come. He credits the growth of the program to his students and the supportive administration.
“First Sergeant Sosa really bonded with students, so we all had a personal connection to him differently,” said Company Executive Officer Jake Cavanagh. “Since I was in Raiders, he was very motivational to where he would run with us. He really engaged with the students and I’m going to miss that.”
Not only did the JROTC program grow throughout 1SG’s years of teaching, but the program has produced a total of six Cadet of the Year awards, a prestigious honor given to the cadet that represents the epitome of JROTC throughout all programs in the nation. In addition, the West Broward JROTC program also earned state championships in 2018 and 2019 for both Raiders and Drill, team-based athletic events involving discipline and teamwork.
“I believe 1SG Sosa was essential in building the Raider Legacy at West Broward. Every state championship showed us proof that students excel when they work with and for him,” said Senior Assistant Principal Wendolynn Sanchez.
Despite struggling with the decision to leave his teaching post, he was confidently able to entrust the program in the experienced hands of his teammates,1SG David Torres and Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Merkel (LTC). He doesn’t believe he could have done it all without the support from his wife and children; they allowed him to become the instructor he is today.
“They’re going to carry on the legacy that I started in 2008,” 1SG Sosa said. “And I know moving forward, West Broward will continue to be one of the best programs not just in the county, but in the state of Florida.”
1SG Sosa struggled to make the decision whether to leave West Broward or begin a new career working for the 31 JROTC programs in Broward County. In the end, after several months of contemplation, his formative years would become the main influence in that decision. He grew up in the foster care system, so he was naturally inclined to help those struggling as he once did. By working for all the JROTC programs in Broward County, he will be able to reach out to students in schools who share a similar background to his.
“I am sad that he has left but on a personal level. It was a good time for him to move to the next position,” LTC Merkel said. “It was the right move for him and his family.”