Cadets Learn Leadership in Challenge

JROTC Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge
06/13/2019
By: Todd Martin
The Ellison High School junior gazed skyward at his peers maneuvering at the top of the rappel tower, listening to the air assault trainers give instruction as they gathered their courage to step off a firm platform and lean into empty space.
 
Eric Han reflected Friday on the final activity of the four-day Junior ROTC Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge – his second year to take part in the summer camp at Fort Hood with peers from eight Texas high schools.
 
“I really came to have fun,” Han said, “but it’s taught me leadership.”
 
A year ago, like many of his peers, the high school cadet said he was nervous because he had never rappelled before. “I’m not scared of heights, but I was nervous last year. After I did it, I hoped I could do it again next year.”
 
Since 2009, the second full week of summer break in Central Texas has brought high school Junior ROTC cadet leaders to Fort Hood and the Phantom Warrior Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge. This year, 144 incoming sophomores, juniors and seniors likely to take on leadership roles in their JROTC battalions this fall worked together closely in activities that challenged their courage and character.
 
The 55-foot rappel tower culminated days of squadron competition, land navigation, marching drills, leadership reaction course challenges, water safety and various demonstrations on the military installation.
 
“It was really fun,” said Harker Heights High School sophomore Destiny Delgadillo of her successful rappel experience. “I might not ever get to do this again and I didn’t want to wonder what it would be like.”
 
At the start of the camp, the early mornings and physical training made Delgadillo wonder what she was thinking when she agreed to attend. “At first, I wanted to go home,” she said, “but not anymore.”
 
The rappelling activity captured in miniature the challenges of the week and even the broad leadership-building mission of Junior ROTC.
 
“It builds confidence,” said Han. “It builds character. It helps me to approach what I haven’t done. This was a big task, but now I’ve done it.”

Leadership Reaction Course
For soldiers, students or anyone else, the enemy can come in a variety of guises from the weather to a challenging colleague to a pool of murky, green water.
 
Campers sampled life in the military, sleeping in barracks, physical training, eating in post dining facilities and completing land navigation, leadership drills and squadron competitions.
 
During the week, the students trained in intentionally mixed groups and traded off responsibilities each day, learning to listen to one another, to speak up and to make choices together.
 
At Fort Hood’s Leadership Reaction Course Thursday, 20 teams of seven or eight cadets worked through a portion of 10 stations, with 27 minutes to complete each obstacle.
 
Most of the challenges included a water hazard and required figuring out how to use given materials to move people and supplies from one side to another.
 
“Today we’re learning teamwork skills,” said incoming Shoemaker High School senior Nakai Cruthirds. “We’re learning communications and planning together to accomplish the obstacles.”
 
“The water is gross,” said Harker Heights High School senior Tiarah Robinson. “It made us become closer, to be a better team. We worked together with pipes and ropes and got everyone but one across the moat. In a short amount of time, we grew to have concern for each other.”
 
Killeen, Ellison, Harker Heights, Shoemaker, Copperas Cove, Longview, Waco and Tyler John Tyler high school students participated in this year’s JCLC on Fort Hood. The camp, intended for emerging cadet leaders is a JROTC requirement.
 
Harker Heights High School JROTC senior instructor retired Col. Donnie Anderson said instruction includes leadership skills, social skills and teambuilding. “It puts them in an environment that is different from school and exposes them to military activities.”
 
Typically, the selected students demonstrated leadership within their battalions and are on a pathway to key posts in future years. They also have proven academic success and physical fitness.
 
“It’s good,” said Ellison senior Jasmine Rodriguez. “We meet people from the other schools and learn about them. We all learn new leadership skills and we all give input and work together.”
 
On the Leadership Reaction Course, she said cadets were motivated to stay out of the green water. “We managed to think together as a team. One voice can speak and we could follow together.”
 
“So far, it’s everything I expected,” said Charles Ilaoa, an Ellison sophomore. “The Army feel gets me pumped up. I’m sorry it will end soon. It’s definitely made me a better cadet and given me practice in leading.”
 
Waco High School sophomore Julianna Ayala said her battalion traveled to Fort Hood during the school year to train at the LRC. “It’s interesting trying to figure out how to get everyone across,” she said of one challenge. “It takes teamwork and trust.”
 
Shoemaker High School senior Nakai Cruthirds and her classmate Jose Vazquez said they enjoyed the comradery and the competition. They competed in tug-of-war, a cadence contest and in land navigation.
 
“It’s going really well. I like talking to the other cadets,” said Robinson of Harker Heights High. “They put us with different people and it builds our character. I’ve been more assertive here because I’m in a position where I need to speak. This is something we’re going to remember.”
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