As a part of the commitment to its community, Fort Leonard Wood once again hosted this year's annual JROTC Raider Challenge competition Saturday.

The event is a head-to-head competition between regional high schools to see who has the most physically fit as well as cooperative team. In order to make sure the event was a success, an extensive amount of preparation was undertaken.

"Well over 60 man hours were spent creating the concept of what the challenge would eventually look like," said 1st Lt. Daniel Sherman, the event's officer in charge.

One key element to planning, as well as staffing the event, was including students currently attending their leadership course at Fort Leonard Wood serving as part of the 554th Engineer Battalion. Students from classes 12-17 and 13-17 were present during the day in order to guide their teams throughout the courses. Each team was assigned a lieutenant who guided the them throughout the day.

In addition to being on the ground with event attendees, second lieutenants from class 12-17 were responsible for much of the planning.

"(Mentorship is important because,) JROTC has the potential to influence the next (generation of) cadets that decide ROTC is the right fit for them and therefore by extension, the future of the officer leadership present within the Army," said 2nd Lt. Robin Brown, EBOLC student and event volunteer.

Retired Col. Charles Williams, Waynesville High School JROTC senior Army instructor, said having the lieutenants working with the JROTC is an added benefit to holding it at the installation.

"The lieutenants are with the teams and they're closer in age, so they talk to the kids about college and such," Williams said. "I think for all the teams, the cool thing is getting to hang out with lieutenants all day and the drill sergeants."

He added the meet held at Fort Leonard Wood is a favorite for a lot of the teams.

"This Raider meet, of all the ones we go to, is probably the one people like the most. Some of these schools are nowhere around military, and I think that's why they like coming here," he said.

The physically demanding event included long-distance endurance events, such as the 10k run, all the way to a modified version of the Army's physical fitness test. This also helped cadets gain a more realistic feel of what life within the Army will look like. Throughout each event, lieutenants stayed with the participants and offered words of encouragement making sure each team stayed motivated throughout the course.

Williams said this year's event was a success once again.

"I want our kids to do good, but as long as the event goes well and everyone is happy, then it's a success," he said.

Leavenworth, Kansas, High School took home the overall win this weekend. Team captain, Javon Evans said the team's motto, "practice, practice, practice," is what makes them a successful team. He hopes this will be what gives his team a successful showing at the upcoming national Raider meet, which is set to take place Nov. 4 in Molena, Georgia.

Additional photos can be found at: www.flickr.com/photos/fortleonardwood/albums/72157687499643241.

(Editor's note: Vaughan is a Unit Public Affairs representative for the 1st Engineer Brigade.)