JROTC challenge expands cadets’ horizons

| June 13, 2014 | 0 Comments
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Cadet Marissa Ward from Hillcrest High School, Tuscaloosa, Ala.,  negotiates the confidence climb obstacle during the Punahou JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge at East Range, here, June 4. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Cadet Marissa Ward from Hillcrest High School, Tuscaloosa, Ala., negotiates the confidence climb obstacle during the Punahou JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge at East Range, here, June 4. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

Sarah Pacheco, Staff Writer

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Nearly 100 Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets gathered from near and far — in some cases, from as far away as 4,500 miles — to participate in the annual Punahou JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge (JCLC) Camp, held at East Range, here, June 3-7.

Supported by Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division, 8th Theater Sustainment Command and 9th Mission Support Command, the annual competition tested 71 high schoolers in land navigation (both day and night), rappelling, road marching, leadership and water safety, among other challenges, in order to “motivate young people to be better citizens,” said retired Lt. Col. Bob Takao, officer in charge, JCLC.

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Cadet Marissa Ward (left) of Hillcrest High School, Tuscaloosa, Ala., teaches knot-making to cadets from Punahou and Saint Louis School during the Punahou JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge at East Range, here, June 4. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Cadet Marissa Ward (left) of Hillcrest High School, Tuscaloosa, Ala., teaches knot-making to cadets from Punahou and Saint Louis School during the Punahou JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge at East Range, here, June 4. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

“It’s an extension of the JROTC program, but we’ve taken them, basically, right out of the classroom and into the field” Takao explained. “It’s really a great training exercise and leadership-development tool, because it teaches kids how to follow others and live in a field environment.”

According to Takao, the Punahou JCLC was created several years ago, independently from the annual JCLC held at Area X in March, because private schools’ spring break schedules don’t align with those for public schools.

“Essentially, we do similar activities that are prescribed by our mandate, but we have some fun, too, with confidence exercises at the pool, and we take them over to the bowling center, so they can take a break from being out in the woods,” Takao said.

The teens hailed from independent schools (or schools that do not offer JROTC) throughout Oahu, to include Punahou, Damien, Sacred Hearts, Le Jardin Academy, Kalani and Saint Louis, as well as from various home schools on the island, all vying for the titles Best Squad and Best Platoon, which were awarded at the end of the camp.

Additionally, 10 students from high schools in Alabama, Georgia and Florida made the long journey across the continental U.S. and mighty Pacific to train with a new set of peers in a tropical environment.

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Hillcrest High School cadet Josh Long prepares to rappel during the Punahou JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge at East Range, here, June 5. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Hillcrest High School cadet Josh Long prepares to rappel during the Punahou JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge at East Range, here, June 5. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

“Where we’re from in Alabama, I think the population’s only about 5,000 or 6,000 — it’s small. We don’t even have a Walmart; that’s how small we are!” said retired Col. Mike Phipps, senior Army instructor with the JROTC program at Hillcrest High School in Evergreen, Ala.

Phipps, who was stationed in Hawaii with the U.S. Army Reserve Theater Support Group-Pacific, from 2009-12, organized the trip as a way to introduce cadets to different cultures and possibilities that exist outside their hometowns.

“There are so many things for them to see here, both historical and cultural, so talk about diversity — what an eye-opener for these kids!” Phipps said. “It gets their mind flowing, and to me, it’s about providing an opportunity for them.”

“I was just totally impressed with these students,” Takao said. “I think it’s amazing that this was the first plane ride for some of these students. They’ve adapted really well to the island.”

“Our kids are learning just as much about Hawaii as these (local) kids are learning about the mainland,” Phipps added. “It’s that cross-pollination of information. That’s why I wanted to bring them here.”

Participating in the camp certainly taught the cadets several new skills, from knot-tying to swimming to the fact that “pushups make you smarter,” but what most said they will take away from the challenge was a newfound confidence acquired through interactions with new friends.

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM — Hillcrest High School JROTC cadets learn about the historical importance of the USS Missouri Battleship from Neil Yamamoto of the USS Missouri Memorial Association during their visit, here, June 2. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM — Hillcrest High School JROTC cadets learn about the historical importance of the USS Missouri Battleship from Neil Yamamoto of the USS Missouri Memorial Association during their visit, here, June 2. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

“I’ve met some friendly people here, especially the people in my squad,” said Cadet Luis Brewton, a 15-year-old sophomore at Hillcrest.

“They’ve been so nice to me. They’re kind of like family to me now, and I couldn’t do this without them,” Brewton explained. “They’ve showed me there are some really nice people in this world.”

“At first, you’re a little nervous, but once you’re here, it’s amazing; it’s a blast!” added 17-year-old Cadet Meghan Hertzog, a senior, also from Hillcrest.

“We’re just a bunch of small-town people who didn’t even think we’d have this opportunity,” Hertzog stated. “We’re doing things that we never really could be able to do back at home. For example, I’m used to oak trees and hickory trees and pines, not this whole rocky mountain stuff! This is exotic for me!”

Following the JCLC, the visiting cadets had the opportunity to enjoy a slice of island life.
The group toured Oahu landmarks and attractions, such as the Polynesian Cultural Center, Dole Plantation and the Arizona Memorial. They also attended an authentic Hawaiian luau at Waikiki Beach and took a day trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, where they saw petroglyphs, volcanoes and black-sand beaches.

“Hawaii is really beautiful!” exclaimed the excited cadets during a breakfast pit stop at the Burger King, here, Tuesday, before heading up to the North Shore.

“It’s interesting how the culture is different — the dancing, how they (the luau performers) dress, the tattoos. … We want to come back! We’re going to miss this place,” they said, adding that the experience has encouraged them to join the armed services so that they can be “stationed at different places and travel around the world.”

“This was truly the trip of a lifetime,” Hertzog said, “and we’re so, so, so thankful to Col. Phipps for making this possible.”

KANEOHE — Hillcrest High School cadets (from left) Meghan Hertzog, Tyeshia Henry, Faith Williams, Kaneeshia Henry, Christian Rudolph, Josh Long, Beronica Martin, Destiny Gorum, Marissa Ward and Luis Brewton pose for a picture on the Windward side of the island on their way to Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, here, June 10. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

KANEOHE — Hillcrest High School cadets (from left) Meghan Hertzog, Tyeshia Henry, Faith Williams, Kaneeshia Henry, Christian Rudolph, Josh Long, Beronica Martin, Destiny Gorum, Marissa Ward and Luis Brewton pose for a picture on the Windward side of the island on their way to Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, here, June 10. (Photo by retired Col. Michael Phipps, Hillcrest High School JROTC)

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Category: Army Community Covenant, Community, Education, Training

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