200 JROTC cadets train and learn at Camp Atterbury

Thursday, November 01, 2012

More than 200 cadets from Indiana Public Schools’ Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps trained at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center July 9-14 in the annual JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge.

The program, held at Camp Atterbury for over 12 years, allows high school students in JROTC programs across the state to participate in military-style training such as rappelling, land navigation, various obstacle courses and more.

"It provides these kids the opportunity to do a lot of things they aren’t normally able to do in their schools," Col. David Sholly, director of Army instruction for the Indianapolis Public Schools district, said.

Adding, "The typical capstone activity, at least from the kids’ perspective, is a helicopter ride that happens on the last day of camp."

The camp requires support from several organizations in order to operate. The helicopters that fly students around on the last day are from the Indiana National Guard’s 38th Aviation Brigade. Facilities and billeting are provided by Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center. Rappel masters that teach and facilitate rappelling to the cadets come from the 38th Infantry Division.

Support for every other event that the cadets participate in comes from the Indiana Guard Reserve (IGR).

"I can’t say enough about the support we have received for this camp," Sholly said. "The IGR, however, really deserves special recognition. These guys really made the camp happen and what makes it really above and beyond because each and every one of them volunteered to be here."

IGR personnel transported water to various training sites, acted as safety personnel at obstacle courses and provided support throughout the camp.

However, according to many cadets, getting to know other cadets from all over the state, and making new friends throughout the course of the camp was even better than rappelling, running obstacle courses and riding in helicopters.

"Every year is a new opportunity to make new friends," Cadet Rebecca Robertson, a junior from Hobart High School, said.

Robertson hopes to get a great deal more out of the camp than new friends. She said the camp has also helped her grow as a person in ways that will serve her well for the rest of her life.

"When you get here your first year, you are thrown in with all sorts of kids from different places and different ways of life and no one knows each other," Robertson said.

While the program was designed for Army JROTC programs, the camp also invited Marine Corps JROTC cadets from Ben Davis High School on Indianapolis’ west side.

Lt. Col. David Thompson, Ben Davis senior Marine Corps instructor, said he uses the camp as an opportunity to fine-tune cadets in whom he sees future leadership potential.

"They are really gracious to invite us here for this camp. We have another camp of our own during the summer and then we are also able to take advantage of this one," Thompson said.

Adding, "I typically hand-select kids from my junior class that I think have the most potential for leadership positions in our program during their senior year and I bring them out here so they can get extra leadership training."

According the Sholly, the camp takes the better part of a year to plan and prepare for.

Sholly typically starts planning the next year’s camp as early as September. Every year, he sees the fruits of his labors as he watches students from all over the state gather at Atterbury for a week of learning, personal growth and fun.