By Mr. Michael Maddox (ROTC)November 10, 2016
Molena, Georgia (Nov. 5, 2016) -- The woods of Molena were filled with a crisp breeze and the sounds of hundreds of Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corp Cadets shouting encouragement and cheers to teammates as 1,100 Cadets from 50 schools competed in the 2016 National Raider Challenge competition Nov. 5-6.
The event tests Cadets endurance and teamwork abilities through five events, to include building and crossing a rope bridge, several obstacle courses, a cross-country rescue event and a 5K run.
Calvin Gager, Army JROTC co-curricular activities coordinator, said Raider Challenge provides several opportunities for JROTC Cadets to grow as individuals and teams.
"Raider Challenge is the segment of our co-curricular activities that allows us to create a competitive environment, with the emphasis on confidence and team building activities in an austere setting," he said. "The intangible benefits our Cadets receive by participating in this demanding event include building perseverance, determination, and self-confidence. These will continue to serve them in every aspect of their lives."
Gager went on to express his admiration of how the Cadets took on the trials and test, and succeeded.
"Our Cadets always amaze me and this year was no exception," he added. "They definitely met the challenges of the competition, and relied on bot their individual abilities and teamwork to succeed."
Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Kraus, Jr., command sergeant major for U.S. Army Cadet Command, who attended the weekend event, spoke at the awards ceremony and told the Cadets how impressed he was by the efforts all of the teams put into the competition.
"After seeing all of you Cadets perform in all of these challenges, I can say you absolutely inspire me," said Kraus. "You've spent the past couple of days worrying about how to execute these skills and navigate these courses, showing teamwork, esprit de corps, and sportsmanship. You Cadets are the future and from what I have seen each and every one of you do here, the future is very, very bright -- the dedication, determination, inspiration and enthusiasm each of you exudes is absolutely phenomenal, so continue to display that in everything you do."
Caitlyn Hebart, a senior on the all-female team from Leavenworth High School, Leavenworth, Kansas, said although competing in the Raider Challenge is no easy task, it's definitely worth it.
"I think our team had a lot of heart and a lot of guts, and we just went out there and did our best. One of the hardest things is trying to keep the team motivated even when everyone is tired and frustrated," she said. "But you have a lot of heart and don't quit because that's the easy way out. This is a challenge, but it's fun, and you feel good about yourself once you complete it."
Hebart added, besides competition, there's something else she enjoys about being part of a Raider team and JROTC.
"I started it my freshman year and just fell in love with it. The team has become my second family, so I've been doing it ever since," she said.
Carlos Carrillo, Riverside Military Academy, Gainesville, Georgia, whose team went on to win the overall male division, said he feels teamwork is the essential ingredient in being strong competitors.
"This year we had one of the strongest teams ever, and it's been a great season so far," he said. "We came together -- we have great leadership on the team. All of us on the team are leaders and that really makes a difference and makes us work together."
"It takes courage and leadership skills, but anyone can develop those skills as long as they stay disciplined and stick to it," added Carrillo.
Winners by division for this year's Raider competition were:
Overall Male Division: 1st - Riverside Military Academy, 2nd - Sarasota Military Academy, 3rd - Adairsville High School.
Overall Female Division: 1st - Sarasota Military Academy, 2nd - Adairsville High School, 3rd - Francis Lewis High School.
Overall Mixed Division: 1st - North Fort Myers High School, 2nd - Georgia Military Prep High School, 3rd - Grissom High School.