By Esther Dacanay, U.S. Army Cadet CommandJune 28, 2011
FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- For most teenagers, summer camp means basking along the seashore by day, and sharing fireside chats by night. But for Army JROTC Cadets, JCLC Mountain is a different kind of camp.
Approximately 418 high school students enrolled in Army JROTC programs at 30 schools nationwide arrived at Camp Wilcox on Fort A.P. Hill for the 2011 JCLC Mountain held June 24-29, ready to test the limits of their endurance, stamina, and leadership capabilities. Unfortunately, three of them had to learn the hard way that this Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge is not “Camp Cupcake.”
The remaining 415 Army junior Cadets continue in their Army Strong efforts to stay in the game and finish what they started as they grow in confidence and leadership during the six-day camp adventure. The typical daily routine for JCLC attendants consists of a 5:30 a.m. wake up call, movement to breakfast and/or chapel at 6:30 a.m., with strength, confidence and leadership training beginning as early as 8am, and continuing throughout the day. Some of the camp activities consist of marksmanship, rope bridge, first aid, land navigation, rappel/confidence course, and leader’s reaction course.
Cadets are not allowed to bring cell phones with them to camp in order to help wean them away from emotional longing to get back to their friends and family at home, according to retired Col. Reginald Geary, the senior Army instructor at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va.
“By the second day,” Geary said, “they learn to make new friends, and just fall in line.”
On average, four to six cadets representing each of the 30 schools nationwide attend JCLC. They arrive together, and a few share living quarters together, but are dispersed among other camp platoons, companies and units throughout the duration of their stay. In other words, they are challenged to step out of their comfort zone to meet and team up with Cadets from other schools with different backgrounds, skills, and abilities.
“At first, it was really awkward coming out of my comfort zone away from friends and family,” said Cadet Pvt. 1st Class Kiane Snoot, 14, an incoming sophomore at Woodbridge Senior High School in Woodbridge, Va. “I had to get out there and talk to other people I didn’t know. It’s really hard learning to trust the teammates you’ve never met before. It really brings out the true leader in all of us, but you just gotta trust that they’ll be there for you and won’t let you down.”
That theory is put to practice on multiple levels throughout JCLC as cadets experience it first-hand when it comes to building trust and confidence in their teammates while participating in each of the several obstacle courses.
“If you’re gonna slack, don’t come,” says Snoot. “I was placed in an immediate leadership position from day one here as a squad leader. But ranks are switched each day to give everyone a chance at a leadership position.”
Through Geary’s three-year involvement with JCLC, he says cadets tend to return to school with a renewed sense of purpose, focus, and a better understanding of what the JROTC citizenship program is all about.
“When it comes to being a leader, you can’t just sugar coat everything because everybody’s your friend,” said Cadet Sgt. Reginald White, 15, an incoming junior at Petersburg High School. “Sometimes you just need to forget who your friends are for a second, and just take the lead.”
Cadet Maj. William Hutt, 17, an incoming senior at Liberty High School in Bealeton, Va., took great interest in the fact that his strength and abilities as a leader have grown and developed since his freshman year in JROTC.
“My strength has increased greatly and my leadership skills are constantly getting better,” said Hutt, who plans to major in political science at North Georgia State College on an ROTC scholarship next year, and eventually commission as a second lieutenant, branching into the Military Intelligence Corps. “I’m adapting, and I find myself being able to just flat out be a stronger leader.”