High School Cadets Train at Fort Cavazos

Cadets work on challengeWhen training conditions change, a good soldier adapts.


That is one of this year’s lessons from the annual Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge at Fort Cavazos.


The yearly training camp for high school Junior ROTC up-and-coming student leaders drew 138 cadets from 10 high schools for a week of challenge.


Units from Killeen ISD’s five comprehensive high schools joined Copperas Cove, Waco, Longview, The Colony and Crosby eating, sleeping and training together.


Searing heat leading to a morning of wind and light rain forced students and their adult leaders to adjust their schedule, shorten some exercises and extend others.


On Wednesday, the cadets worked in small groups to overcome physical challenges at the Leadership Reaction Course on post.


At each stop, the students worked together to strategize how to move an item like a wood box from one spot to another using given items like wood planks.


In some cases, they faced water hazards, a wall or other obstacles.


During the week-long camp, student cadets stay in barracks on North Fort Cavazos. They eat in Army dining facilities or meals ready to eat.

Cadets build bridges


Earlier in the week, they observed a military working dog demonstration and conducted land navigation exercises. They also took a shift on a battle simulation course.


Several of the student leaders said the camp was challenging them to work with a wide variety of people and to try out numerous platoon and company roles.


“It’s going good,” said Killeen High School senior AJ Lemaire. “Yesterday, we did land navigation, so they gave us a class how to plot points on a map and we found points. It was really hot but really fun.”


The campers divided into platoons, mixing the students from the 10 different schools to learn to lead and follow in a variety of scenarios.


“We have to think together how to mesh together as a team,” Lemaire said.


The highlight of the camp was learning from adult leaders, all retired soldiers, with stories to tell and wisdom to pass along, he said.


Tachina Brown, a Shoemaker High School senior set to be the battalion commander this coming school year said the challenging conditions taught her a lot about taking care of each other.

High rope course 2024


“You really need to stay hydrated,” she said, noting the need to eat a full meal and to keep drinking while training.


One challenge, she said, involved carrying a patient on a stretcher, practicing how to keep balance while transporting someone.


“I’m learning to communicate and make sure people (take care of themselves),” she said.

Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge


Harker Heights junior Akailah Bridges said she was learning about different leadership styles and strategies.


“We’re learning to interact with people we don’t know,” she said. “This camp is teaching us ways to build connections and to have trust in our squad. I’m learning a lot.”


Learning ways to direct others, giving purpose and direction will help the young leaders as they lead their school groups during the year, Bridges said.


On Thursday, the group moved the team-building training to Variety’s Peaceable Kingdom Retreat south of Killeen for low- and high-rope course challenges.


In shaded clearings in the thick of the tree-studded campground, students continued working in groups, trying to maintain balance as they worked their way along rope courses.


In a different area, cadets navigated up a climbing wall, moved across a high rope course and soared on a giant swing.


Chaparral High School senior Billy Rodriguez said the week of camp was filled with challenges that honed leadership skills.


He said cadets were forced into a variety of roles, learning to direct and guide a variety of students and observe the styles of others.

Rope course challengeRope course JROTC challenge


“We had to make a team and hold together,” he said. “Everyone gave an opinion trying to achieve a goal with an obstacle. It helps you work as a team with the people in your group. It helps you work with others.”


“It’s definitely been challenging,” said Ellison sophomore Elijah Freeman, “especially for someone without much experience. I had to figure it out in a hurry, and it taught me I need to learn more.”


Learning to lean on team members with different skills and personalities, he said, will help him move through JROTC.


“You learn so much from experiencing it firsthand. I’ve learned to not go too fast. Taking the time to make sure we have everything we need and everyone on board.”


See our Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge Photo Album Here