• Argelio Cuellar, of Highlands High School in San Antonio, poses for a photo as a Soldier Friday at the Army Strong Zone.

    Student poses for photo at Strong Zone

    Argelio Cuellar, of Highlands High School in San Antonio, poses for a photo as a Soldier Friday at the Army Strong Zone.

  • John Hernandez, of Memorial High School in San Antonio, scales a climbing wall at the Army Strong Zone.

    Climbing wall at Strong Zone

    John Hernandez, of Memorial High School in San Antonio, scales a climbing wall at the Army Strong Zone.

  • Brandi Lopez, of McCollum High School in San Antonio, pulls back after being touched by an electronic knife used in combatives training.

    Strong Zone

    Brandi Lopez, of McCollum High School in San Antonio, pulls back after being touched by an electronic knife used in combatives training.

SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 6, 2012) -- The Army took its message of opportunity to San Antonio's youth Friday, targeting the opening of the Army Strong Zone to hundreds of high school students who could be future Soldiers. Among them were dozens of Army Junior ROTC Cadets.

The annual exhibit next to the Alamodome that is part of the annual All-American Bowl festivities showcases many of the 150-plus career fields available and ways to become a Soldier, including ROTC. Besides being a hub of information, the Strong Zone gave students a peek at the life of a Soldier.

It also gave them a chance briefly experience a Soldier's life through interactive events. JROTC Cadets wound their way through the exhibits, playing and learning about what's available to them should they opt to serve.

Argelio Cuellar has already enlisted and heads to basic training in June after he graduates from Highlands High School.

At a photo booth, he jumped behind the life-size, headless cutout of a Soldier rappelling from a helicopter and had his picture snapped. It was a precursor for the Highlands senior, who plans to attend airborne training as well.

"This gives me a leg up," Cuellar said, laughing. "I joined the Army because I want different experiences and to develop."

At the Army Combatives School booth, an instructor showed students a taser-like device. Molded as a knife, it's used today in training instead of rubber knives. That way, those in training know if they've been "cut" in a mock confrontation.

The instructor held the knife against the forearms of willing students wanting to experience the quick jolt. Brandi Lopez, of McCollum High School's JROTC program, screamed and jumped back when the electric sensor touched her skin.

Lopez said the activities available at the Strong Zone were a valuable experience. She was particularly attracted to the physical fitness booth where drill sergeants were stationed.

Lopez wants to be one someday.

"I want the power to command," she said. "But this is all a good experience for when I do it in the Army."

John Hernandez tested his physical mettle at rock climbing. As be began scaling the 20-foot wall, he paused, trying to plot his path from one handhold to the next.

The Memorial High School sophomore, who had never climbed before, looked down as if he was going to give up. Then he took a deep breath and pushed on, eventually making it to the top.

As he unhooked from his climbing gear, Hernandez, sweat beading on his forehead, smiled with a sense of accomplishment.

"They said that was the hardest lane," he said. "I love the experience. I love everything about the military."

Page last updated Fri January 6th, 2012 at 00:00