By Sean CW Korsgaard
For most teenagers, a week at summer camp probably brings up images of camping, canoeing and smoking marshmallows over a campfire. For the JROTC cadets attending JCLC Mountain at Fort A.P. Hill last week, summer camp proved to be a far more intense experience, and it wasn’t the marshmallows getting smoked.
“It’s funny, a lot of my kids didn’t want to come, and those first few days, a lot of the ones who did had second thoughts,” said Sfc. Derrick Lemon. “By Day 3 though? They’re getting into it, coming up to me saying ‘Sergeant, I’m having a great time!’ and that’s what we want, to help them overcome those fears and come away from camp more confident.”
421 Army JROTC cadets from 36 high schools across Virginia attended the 2017 Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge last week, including 15 from Caroline High School, 10 from Northumberland High School, and 7 from Rappahannock High School.
Spending the week at Camp Wilcox on Fort A.P. Hill, cadets attending JCLC Mountain got a small sampling of what life is like for soldiers in the Army over the course of the week, ranging from sleeping in barracks, having MRE’s for lunch, and going through obstacle courses similar to what a soldier might during basic combat training.
“For some of these kids, it can be their first time in a true military atmosphere on post, and it can be shocking for them at first,” said Col. Carlton Day, the acting commandant at JCLC Mountain. “The camp is always a challenge for the cadets, some more than most, but by the end, most of them like it, if not love it.”
Upon arrival, the cadets are mixed into different platoons, and one of the central challenges of the camp is to learn to work together with unfamiliar faces. No small feat when camp activities include marksmanship, first aid, leader reaction training and an obstacle/confidence course where the climax is rappelling down a 40 foot tower.
The central challenge of JCLC Mountain, according to Lt. Col. James Hobson, the ROTC instructor at Rappahannock High School, is for the cadets to step outside their comfort zone and come out stronger and more confident for it.
“The cadets have been put through the ringer this week, but they’re holding up very well, and I certainly think they are all stronger for it,” said Hobson. “That’s the name of the game here, and what I hope they all take away, not just teamwork or fun, but that they leave here stronger, and more confident.”
It’s a sentiment that has certainly caught on with Lt. Col. Hobson’s cadets. Anthony Seal, a cadet from Rappahannock High School planning to enlist in either the Army or the Marine Corps after graduation, has been grateful for the experiences he’s had at JCLC Mountain.
“I have a lot more confidence in myself,” said Seal. “The camp is a challenge, and I’ve taken a lot away from it overcoming those challenges.”