Golden Gate High School students were in the trees, on the field and in the classroom, last week, during a first-time JROTC Leadership Training Camp led by instructors Lt. Col. Paul Garrah and Sgt. George Harvey.
In the past, the training was offered at the state level at Camp Blanding in northern Florida. According to Garrah, the camp was cancelled last year due to hurricane activity and this year, Army and National Guard officials cancelled the camp program due to lack of funds and staff.
"With the war on, the Army is making a lot of cuts to its programs," Garrah explained.
Instead, each school was given the go-ahead to conduct its own training under Army guidelines. The Army covered the cost for each program, which included breakfast and lunch.
"We were the only school that chose to do a five-day camp," Garrah said. "We wanted to include the physical training and rope course, but what we really wanted to focus on was leadership training."This year's camp drew an enrollment of 26 JROTC cadets, who completed 44 hours of mentally and physically demanding exercises with a goal of pushing each cadet to his or her highest potential.
"Our motto is motivating young people to be better citizens," Garrah said.
Garrah's military experience easily transfers into the classroom as he answers questions and mentors his cadets through each step of the training. The goal of this weeklong camp is to assist each cadet to understand his or her leadership role in accomplishing tasks as part of a team.
"We teach Army values, which are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage," Garrah said. "Respect is big around here so the training really fit well within the parameters of Golden Gate High School."
Outdoors, students of all grade levels braved intense outdoor temperatures, completing several courses arranged on the perimeter of the campus. Both Garrah and Harvey remind students to rehydrate during the intense heat. Despite the high temps, the cadets seemed undeterred, sprinting through the courses with determination and a lot of sweat. They ran in formation in fatigues, maneuvered across a rope bridge with carabineers in a high pressure timed race, and carried each other in gurneys in the first aid portion of the training.
One of the most intensive physical outdoor challenges was the rope bridge, where students learned to tie ropes to create 'seats' that were used to hook onto other ropes, allowing the cadets to slide from one tree to another. These techniques are used to traverse large expanses, like rivers or ravines. The group also learned basic navigation skills, compass reading, marksmanship using air rifles, and first aid training.
"They are encouraged to use their brains as well as their bodies," Garrah explained of the strenuous tasks that required students to analyze, evaluate and work together throughout the course of the week.
The training went beyond the outdoor physical exercises to more in-depth goal-oriented leadership training inside the classroom.
Sgt. First Class Stephanie Kumetz explained the concept of the Winning Colors exercise and how it helped her to understand and relate to others.
"For instance, if you are a red, you get it done; if you are a green, you are a planner and thinker; if you are a blue you are a social person," she explained, pointing to different cards used to determine aptitude skills. This is one of several different techniques students master in becoming future leaders.
The weeklong camp culminated with a cookout and awards ceremony for those who excelled in the training exercises. Garrah hopes the training provided cadets with a variety of skills they will utilize during the upcoming school year, as well as in their day-to-day lives."We teach success and it is a win-win for everyone," Harvey summed up the week's training.