CAMP ZAMA, Japan
– Throughout the Zama Middle High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadet Leadership Challenge here April 6 through 8, the cadets showed they were up for the test.
They treated blisters from the nearly 3-mile road march quickly and thoroughly. They helped each other over difficult obstacles during the obstacle course. They demonstrated teamwork during the orienteering test. They cheered each other on during the Army Combat Fitness Test. They listened carefully to the safety brief before their Black Hawk helicopter flights. And when it came time to learn medical rescue carries, it seemed everyone wanted to carry the 200-pound cadet.
“These cadets have been amazing,” said retired Lt. Col. Douglas Fields, the school’s senior Army instructor. “Whether it’s one cadet or all 42, this year has really been an amazing year, especially given the circumstances.”
School officials had to cancel the challenge last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but were able to hold the event this year due to mitigation efforts. The challenge’s main objective was to teach teambuilding skills, Fields said, and cadets who participated said they learned those skills and much more.
“I like how the instructors and everyone taught us all about leadership,” said Cadet Lt. Col. Jayson Loiselle, commander of the “Trojan Battalion.” “I think it went well because everyone worked hard.”
Loiselle said he found the ruck march the most challenging, and enjoyed the Black Hawk ride the most. Pilots assigned to the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan flew the cadets about 28 miles south to Odawara and back.
Cadet Staff Sgt. Theori Lindsay, meanwhile, said she liked the obstacle course the most.
“I would say I liked the obstacle course because I like a challenge,” Lindsay said. “It was tiring, don’t get me wrong. I was tired, but I like a challenge, and I liked the team effort, so I didn’t feel alone, and we did pretty well, actually.”
The toughest part, however, was completing the obstacle course and then trying to do a lot of push-ups and other arm workouts afterward, Lindsay said.
“I was exhausted, and I was just trying to pull it [through], but we got through at the end of the day,” Lindsay said.
Likewise, Cadet Master Sgt. Michael Manangan said he had a lot of fun during the challenge, but found himself especially tired after the first day, which included the ruck march, the obstacle course and the ACFT. Then he had soccer practice after school.
In the end, Manangan said he realized that overcoming challenges is largely a mental task.
“Over the past few days I’ve done the JCLC events, and then I’ve had to go to soccer practice, and I’ve come home really tired,” Manangan said. “So it’s just mental ability. Honestly, I didn’t think I could do a lot of the stuff, especially on the obstacle course, but if I just put my mind to it, then I did it.”
Since not all the cadets could fit on the two Black Hawks at once, Staff Sgt. Miki Dodge, a combat medic specialist and noncommissioned officer in charge of family medicine at the BG Crawford F. Sams Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, taught the cadets combat medicine and rescue-carry techniques while they waited their turns.
“I enjoyed my time working with the cadets during their JCLC,” Dodge said. “I was very impressed at how motivated everyone was throughout the challenge. They displayed excellent teamwork and were very receptive to learning.”
JROTC is an elective class available to students in grades eight through 12, and at ZMHS, 14% of the student body in those grades is in the class, Fields said.
This was the first year JROTC was open to eighth graders, Fields said.
Cadet Pfc. Kristaleen Fugrad, an eighth grader who participated in the challenge, said she encourages other eighth graders to take the class and she hopes more will join next year.
Fugrad said she especially enjoyed the map orienteering portion of the challenge.
“I actually live on the base and I didn’t know there are some places here that existed,” said Fugrad, who has lived on Camp Zama for three years.
She also appreciated the helicopter ride.
“I got to sit in one before at [John O. Arnn Elementary School], but I didn’t get to ride in one until now,” Fugrad said.
Fields thanked Col. Thomas Matelski, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, and USAG Japan Command Sgt. Maj. Justin Turner; Maj. Gen. Viet Luong, commander of U.S. Army Japan; USARJ Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Dodson, Col. Tanya Peacock, commander of U.S. Army Medical Department Activity – Japan, the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan and all the unit volunteers for their support of the event.