CRANE, Ind. -- The thick woods on the Crane navy base were full of cries of determination, perseverance and laughter this summer as it played host to dozens of Indiana students learning the value of teamwork and leadership.
Crane Army and Navy combined resources in their Science Technology Engineering and Math programs in order to sponsor four Indiana Navy Junior ROTC units participating in a week-long basic leadership training course with a STEM element July 21-25 on Naval Support Activity Crane.
Thirty-eight students from Anderson, Washington, Bloomfield and Pike High Schools gathered at Crane Army Ammunition Activity's reserve compound for a week of barrack inspections; personnel inspections; orienteering (land navigation); brain brawl about flag etiquette, chain of command, military time, general orders, fire fighting training, watch standing, physical fitness competition, and STEM sessions including the LEGO Mindstorms Robots.
According to Navy Capt. (ret.) Neil May, Senior Naval Science Instructor for Washington High School NJROTC, the event came about through the increasing awareness of what Crane was about. He said, "The NJROTC units previously took part in a BLT event in Marseilles Ill. with hundreds of kids and it was very expensive to get the kids up there. So several of the instructors who supported that event said, wouldn't it be nice to come down here and use this facility (at Crane), save a lot of money and invest that into the kids instead of losing it to logistical costs. So we started communicating with the base commander, Cmdr. (James) Stewart. The moons just aligned."
Last year the units did SeaPerch on the base sponsored through Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, STEM program. Following the event, the NJROTC instructors thought it would be even better if they could combine the basic leadership training with the STEM training. Through CAAA sponsoring the use of its reserve compound and NSWC sponsoring the STEM robotics competition, the NJROTC leadership were able to create a week-long environment of basic leadership training and STEM.
May indicated that the size of the groups participating may increase next year because more schools are interested in joining. Two schools were unable to participate due to their preparations for the start of the school year. Plans are in place to expand the number of cadets and double the number next year. He said, "There is a lot of interest in this because it is more of a shift from marching and drill to science. They still get some of that… but we are just letting them know the value of a military career and/or STEM. So whether you go into the military or not, it's got value if you want to choose that kind of career path."
Helping to turn teenagers onto STEM is something that benefits the military at Crane since engineers are something both the Army and the Navy rely on heavily for their civilian workforce. May said, "The nation needs engineers. So all we are hoping to do is spark an interest in as many kids to change their course early, to influence that toward maybe a career. You get to them early and they don't know what they don't know; maybe they love Science Technology Engineering and Math."
The students from the four different schools were mixed together in platoons so that they would be forced to interact and work with new people. According to Cadet Kirsten Bush of Indianapolis, Ind., being on a team and trying to get everyone to work together was her biggest challenge of the week.
"I know how to be a better leader. I know how to get everyone to work together and come together as one," Bush said. "Not necessarily to get everyone to do what I want them to do, but to get everyone to think about others opinions. Now, just by me saying a few words gets everyone to turn their heads and listen and that's not how it used to be before. So it has been very helpful for me."
The challenges the cadets faced during the week and how they overcame them as a team was a key part of the training. According to Cadet Conor Johnson of Anderson, Ind., it is training that brought out the best both as a team and as individuals.
"It is an interesting thing about how at times, with the trials that the team goes through, you feel a great sense of elation and strength in community. And there are times when your team goes down a tougher path that it is a lot harder and you don't have as much unit cohesion," Conor said. "That's probably the hardest thing here. Because there are a lot of invigorating experiences… for some people physical training can be a breeze and for others it can be their trial in life. It helps people push past those barriers and strengthens them so that they can become better leaders in the future."
Established Oct. 1977, CAAA maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure in order to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles and related components.