Each year Junior ROTC cadets from across the Carolinas descend on Fort Jackson to test their mettle and learn to become leaders June 10-23.

An estimated 776 rising sophomore and Senior Junior ROTC cadets from more than 50 surrounding high schools occupied the Combat Basic Training quarters of 2nd Battalion 13th Infantry Regiment for the first cycle of the annual Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge June 10 -- 16. Cycle Two began June 17.

Retired Col. Maxie Joy, commandant of JROTC/ Cadet Command at Wagener-Sally High School in Aiken County, South Carolina said he looks for cadets who possess leadership qualities when sending students to the camp each year.

"One of the things I focus on when looking for leaders are cadets who are willing to put others before themselves; they care about the unit show interest in their school and they bond with other cadets," he said

The challenges the cadets face during the Leadership Challenge are similar to challenges faced by trainees in Basic Combat Training -- all meant to build their leadership skills and their internal confidence.

Retired Col. Timothy Houser, senior Army instructor for Dillon High School, and public affairs officer for cycle one of Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge, said some of the challenges the cadets encounter are the low and high ropes course and drown proofing.

"They work out on the low ropes then they go on the 40-foot repelling tower and some of them are pretty anxious about that," he said. "Another challenge is drown proofing; because a lot of our cadets don't get the chance to swim and don't know how to swim; so a different group each day will go to the pool for drown proof training."

Additional challenges include STEM activities at a local high school, testing on ROTC knowledge, confidence and obstacle course training, and marksmanship safety training.

Each phase of the Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge wrapped with a graduation ceremony at Hilton field. Guest speaker Molly Spearman, the South Carolina State Superintendent of Education attended the Cycle One graduation June 16.