‘Smile power’ pushes JROTC instructor’s message to cadets

ABERDEEN – Lt. Col. Jeff “Cog” Coggin believes a strong Aberdeen equals a strong Monroe County, which translates to a strong Mississippi. Since coming on board with Aberdeen High School’s Junior ROTC program alongside Senior Master Sgt. Jim McCarty, Coggin is planting that philosophy in his cadets to provide for a brighter future.

“We’re trying to give these students the X-factor that is the intangible thing they need for success. Since I started in July, I’ve been trying to wrap my arms around some issues that need addressing,” Coggin said.

The Nettleton native traveled around the world with the military before retiring from the United States Air Force, but took comfort in every opportunity to briefly settle in his native Mississippi.

Following tenures at bases in Gulfport, Biloxi and Columbus, he saw the opportunity to reconnect with his Mississippi roots once again as a senior aerospace science instructor with AHS’s JROTC program.

“I want our cadets to realize life isn’t about them; it’s about helping others. We believe our 75 cadets can be the core change of the school and hope that when they leave these doors, they can be the influence for the rest of the students,” Coggin said.

Coggin lives in Auburn, Ala. with a wife and two sons, but makes the weekly commute to Aberdeen for stays from Sundays until Fridays, unless work assignments spill into the weekends.

Mixed with special projects like a model for transportation potential for Aberdeen, the program is pushing for more cadet-lead organization to build on leadership roles.

The JROTC lead the recent blood drive at AHS, which netted 27 pints for the United Blood Service.

The cadets are being encouraged to follow global affairs like the current hostility against America in the Middle East.

“In addition to current events, developing a global mindset gives them the understand they’re going to be competing for jobs with not just people in Monroe County, but people in India and China as well,” Coggin said.

In addition to in-school service, Coggin acts as a liaison between the Aberdeen School District and the City of Aberdeen.

“Mayor Belle is opening several doors for me. I’ve started to attend the weekly department head meetings and several other meetings. A community is comprised of all of its stakeholders—merchants, parents, the municipality—and everyone has to share a common goal,” Coggin said.

Key people in Coggin’s life inspired his positive aura, which he passes along to others.

“I’m big into smile power. Positive attitudes can make a difference in people’s lives just like negativity can suck people right in. I’m a firm believer that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” Coggin said