Schofield Barracks, Hawaii - Hawaii Army National Guard Recruiters sponsored 112 Prince David Kawananakoa Middle School students to go through the Leadership Reaction Course at Schofield Barracks on Oct. 28. President Theodore Roosevelt High School's Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets also assisted the HIARNG recruiters with mentoring and training students as they navigated through each obstacle.

Retired Brig. Gen. Bruce E. Oliveira, former commander of the Hawaii Army Guard, initiated this partnership in 2012 when he was an administrator at Kawananakoa Middle School.

"The purpose of the program was to first use the activities at the Leadership Reaction Course to bond the 8th graders at KMS into a cohesive class that would provide the leadership and role models to the 6th and 7th graders for the school year," said Oliveira. "Second, to involve the JROTC programs at Roosevelt and McKinley (high schools that KMS feeds into), the ROTC program at the University of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Army National Guard as facilitators, it introduced the 8th graders to future opportunities in the Army prior to completing their high school registration."

The Hawaii Guard and the Roosevelt JROTC Cadets worked together to challenge the Kawananakoa students. The LRC introduces team building and leadership skills that allows the middle school students to broaden their minds in a critical thinking and tactical environment.

"This was a great opportunity to help students with their leadership skills, confidence and self-esteem," said Master Sgt. Conrad Koki, a retired Army logistical NCO and current Roosevelt Army JROTC instructor. "This is a positive recruitment tool because it broadens their career choices and pathways that they can think about before entering high school; it opens their eyes to different opportunities available."

This event allowed participants the opportunity to mentor students, leaving them with a sense of direction and gratification with all they've accomplished individually or together as they went through the course. For some of the 8th graders, it was their first time to build self-reliance, stress relationships and conduct decisive thinking.

"It teaches us teamwork and to listen to everyone in the group because everyone has a voice," said Khalid Jackson, Kawananakoa 8th grader.

The obstacles, which included barrels, planks of wood and high walls, were mentally and physically challenging for all teams, but through collaboration and perseverance, each team made progress after each iteration.

"Learning to communicate with others was a big benefit to this because it allowed everyone to work together as one," said Ashlyn Chang, Kawananakoa 8th grader.

This event allowed the Hawaii Army National Guard to interact with the community they serve at an event, other than during a response to a natural disaster. It wasn't only the middle or high school students that came away from the LRC with a positive experience.

"The expressions of enjoyment and accomplishment on the student's faces ensures me that it's worth all of the hard work, coordination and preparation," said Sgt. 1st. Class Ryan Goto, Hawaii Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Operations Non-Commissioned Officer. "Everyone involved contributed to their experience just by being present and giving insight through the obstacles."

Each participant came away from the LRC experience with something different.

"I think it's good for our students, especially those who think they know everything; these courses are challenging enough for them to be humbled and give others a chance," said John Kuna, 8th grade, Kawananakoa science teacher. "Thank you so much for keeping this alive because it's easy to start a program but hard to keep it going, it's really wonderful so thank you very much."

The whole event gave a sense of pride to the Hawaii Guardsmen and JROTC mentors and was a fun day for the Kawananakoa Middle schoolers, but it also helps military programs at all levels as an option for participants.

"This LRC program resulted in an increase of enrollment in the high school JROTC programs at RHS and MHS, the ROTC program at UH, and recruits into the Hawaii Army National Guard," said Oliveira.