WICHITA, Kan. – Cadets of Wichita State University’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps hosted the first annual Capt. Pitts Challenge for Junior ROTC students Apr. 23. More than 70 Army, Air Force and Marine JROTC cadets from the Wichita area participated in the event.
“The Captain Pitts Challenge honors Capt. Leroy Pitts, who was a 1960 graduate of Wichita State Army ROTC program,” said Master Sgt. Jeromy Fisher, operations noncommissioned officer and senior instructor for WSU ROTC. “He was deployed to Vietnam and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for sacrificing himself to save his men in combat.”
Challenge events were predominately about fostering teamwork among JROTC cadets, with an emphasis on communication and problem solving. Events also tested cadets’ physical fitness, and drill and ceremony skills in a series of friendly competitions.
Wichita State Army ROTC, which is staffed and run entirely by Kansas Army National Guard members, is approaching the end of their second year since inception and will be graduating the program’s first two second lieutenants May 14. After plans to initiate the annual challenge fell through in 2020 due to COVID-19, the staff decided now was the time to branch out and get more involved in the community.
“This is our fourth semester at WSU and we’ve grown exponentially since the start of the program,” said Fisher. “So we wanted to start engaging the community and building partnerships.”
Retired Col. Robert Hester, director of JROTC for the Wichita public schools district, said the event had multiple benefits for his cadets above and beyond the skills the challenge was teaching, including exposing them to college level ROTC.
“Our cadets will listen to them a lot better than they’ll listen to us,” Hester laughed. “I think they learned from this experience. We get a lot of support from the National Guard, and we appreciate it. It’s good to see the uniform and the cadets like seeing that too.”
Hester said the event fit well with the goals of JROTC.
“Our mission is to make cadets better citizens,” Hester said. “We want them to set goals for themselves, to learn discipline, responsibility, commitment. There are a number of cadets, based off what they learn in JROTC, who will pursue a career in the military. But, it doesn’t matter if they go into the military or not; we want them to be successful.
“JROTC prepares people for the future,” Hester continued. “I cannot remember meeting any former cadet who is not successful as an adult and who does not believe that JROTC had a major impact on their success.”
Fisher said it wasn’t just the JROTC cadets that learned from the event. The cadets of WSU ROTC also benefitted from the experience of planning a large-scale event, a process that challenged all of them to take a proactive approach to leadership.
“I’ve been all over the world and I’ve seen every leadership style you could possibly imagine,” Fisher said. “These are the skills and techniques I’ve learned that I wish to pass on to the next generation of leaders.