By Sara Nahrwold, U.S. Army Cadet CommandJune 9, 2011
FORT KNOX, Ky. " Dangling over water with nothing but a rope and sheer upper-body strength to get her across, junior Destiny Washington of Callaway High School is calm and ready to conquer her fear.
“I was afraid of water until they helped get me unafraid,” Washington said. “You just don’t know how scared I was of heights and how scared I was of water, and I just overcame it.”
Washington was among 180 students from Jackson (Miss.) Public Schools who participated this week in a Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge summer camp at the Kentucky post. Students experienced a day of water-focused activities with stream-crossing and water combat survival training, among a host of other activities that tested them physically and mentally.
At the stream-crossing site, the morning sun couldn’t penetrate the canopy of trees that hovered over the high school students as they watched and learned about the value of teamwork from a group of lieutenants.
The stream-crossing staff burst through fog smoke to the tune of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses to demonstrate. The rope strung between two tree logs could be seen faintly through the haze. The music and the positive attitude of the staff encouraged smiles and laughs from the students before being briefed on what they would be doing.
“The single most important thing for them to do is to pay attention,” said retired Col. Paul Willis, director of army instruction at Jackson Public Schools. “They received the instructions, they practiced and they saw the demonstrations and now have the opportunity to put into action what they have learned.”
After practicing multiple times tying knots and tying ropes around trees to practice the crossing, they headed for the stream. Talking and walking with gloves on, safety glasses secure and ropes tied tight around their waists, the students were ready for the challenge.
Teamwork is a large part of stream-crossing success.
“You’re a team, and you have to work together to get things accomplished and succeed,” Washington said.
The students also learned about combat water survival training at Anderson Pool. There were five stations for the students to complete, and each one had its challenges.
At the first, students had to swim the length of the pool. The second required them to put on equipment and carry a dummy rifle through the water. The third was a jump off the 3-meter diving board while blindfolded. At the fourth, they had to use their use their uniforms as a floating device to stay afloat for 20 seconds. The fifth required them to remain above nine feet of water for five minutes.
“I was nervous but confident I could do it so I did it and I feel like I can do it again,” said sophomore Tshomba Harvey of Forest Hill High School. “I have enjoyed the training because they challenge you, but its fun.”
For Harvey, jumping off the diving board blindfolded was most difficult.
The water combat survival training was much more an individual task than stream-crossing.
“You couldn’t depend on anyone else, just your arms and your legs to swim,” said freshman Jamela Carthan, of Jim Hill High School. “I can do anything by myself, achieve anything.”
For her, the five minutes of treading water was the most challenging of the five stations.
“You had to keep treading and my arms gave out, but I tried it again and I made it all five minutes,” she said.
The diving board was her favorite because that was the one of which she was most afraid.
Willis said he was pleased with the success and positive attitude of the students. He has been bringing JROTC students to Fort Knox for five years and this is the best group he’s had, he said.
“They’re doing what I expected them to do; they’re rising to the challenge,” he said. “They’re going to be different people when they go back, having the confidence and knowing that they can perform a task even though it’s unfamiliar to them. If they pay attention and follow directions, they can accomplish anything.”