About 400 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from more than 28 central east coast high schools participated in a regional JROTC Raider Challenge national qualifier here Nov. 5 at Williams Stadium.
Supported by the Sustainment Center of Excellence, the challenge presented a series of events that were both physically and mentally demanding. The high schoolers displayed camaraderie consistent with Army values as they pushed one another to the point of exhaustion and worked together to overcome obstacles and achieve team goals.
“This is an intense physical activity, and these young cadets get a chance to invest in their teams, to invest in excellence, and you can see it on the field of competition,” observed Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, who was present at the event.
The challenge included a 5k Road March, a Litter Carry, a Team Physical Fitness Challenge, a One-Rope Bridge and a Logistics Relay.
“My favorite event was the Logistics Relay – lifting the tires, the water jugs, the low crawl – because you can give your team responsibilities and cheer them on, and you get to see them complete those responsibilities, which is a beautiful sight to see,” said Owen Murphy, a senior at Thomas Dale High School in Chester.
CASCOM provided support personnel, while JROTC cadre oversaw the planning, construction and execution of each lane.
“The Raider Challenge is about building teams, and having those teams work competitively together,” said retired Col. Carlton Day, the Richmond Public Schools Director of Army Instruction. “JROTC is all about creating better citizens, providing confidence to use leadership skills and build communication.”
JROTC cadre, family members and cadets traveled to Fort Lee from as far away as South Carolina and Baltimore, Md., to the north. The daylong event provided them an opportunity to speak with Army personnel and view static displays of equipment used by CASCOM’s Transportation, Ordnance and Quartermaster schools.
Hosting a regional Raider Challenge is an opportunity for CASCOM and Fort Lee to continue to be community-driven and showcase to the public what the Army and its logistics branches have to offer.
“They get to see what the military looks like – how we live, where we live – and we introduce them to aspects of service as well,” Simerly said. “We get to bring them onto a military installation where they can see a little slice of life of what it looks like to live and work on an Army post. We see this as a perfect opportunity to expose JROTC cadets to military life in ways they may not otherwise see.”
Another way to look at the Raider Challenge, Day noted, is seeing it as an opportunity for the cadets to just get out and be social for a change.
“Since COVID, some kids have been introverted,” Day said. “Now, we’re looking at kids being more outdoorsy, getting away from some of the communication devices and joining each other in personal conversations and company.”
The hiatus of the Raider Challenge due to the pandemic also robbed kids of the full JROTC experience.
“I wish I could have done more, but COVID-19 really shut things down,” Murphy said. “I love doing this with my fellow friends and cadets; they are like my brothers and sisters. The Raider Challenge is not just to test your physical abilities, but also to induce bonding with your team. You get a sense of camaraderie, reliance and trust.”
Fort Lee supported a previous Raider Challenge event in March. The presence of its military personnel and leaders is part of the commitment CASCOM has made to support Army Recruiting throughout the year. It’s meant to increase awareness among community leaders and influencers about the opportunities and benefits of Army service so they can provide accurate information to young people considering service.
If you or someone you know is interested in serving in the Army, visit: www.goarmy.com or recruiting.army.mil.