Cadets learn leadership, assist deployed parents
Stars and Stripes June 20, 2007
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — While Capt. Olga Rivera is in Baghdad battling heat, dust and insurgents, her daughter, Jennifer, 17, is taking on river rapids, obstacle courses and other leadership challenges in Germany.
Jennifer, who attends Heidelberg High School, is one of 118 members of the Junior ROTC attending the Cadet Leadership Challenge — an action-packed 11-day summer camp this month at Grafenwöhr.
The camp features a wide range of outdoor and military-style activities designed to hone cadets’ leadership abilities.
"I liked the canoeing the best," the teenager said. "We had to canoe about 15 kilometers on the Wiesent River near Pottenstein. We had to work with our partners to not tip over in the rapids, which took a lot of strength, and we had to stop and help people who did flip over."
The camp has piqued her interest in the military, which was already high. She hopes to follow in Mom’s footsteps, she said.
It’s the first time the teen has had to cope with a deployed parent.
"This is her first time downrange," Jennifer Rivera said of her mother. "She has been there almost three months. She doesn’t recommend it as a lifestyle choice, but she says there are just some things you have to do."
Efrain Rivera, who’s not related to Jennifer Rivera, is waiting for his dad, Staff Sgt. Gerardo Familia, to return from Baghdad.
"It’s his second time deployed," Efrain said. "He tells me to help Mom out. He wants me to accomplish my goals, graduate and reach as high as my potential."
The 17-year-old Baumholder American High School student, who plans to study architecture, join ROTC in college and then join the Marine Corps or the Army, said the best part of the camp for him so far has been a high-ropes course at Tannesberg.
"There were a lot of obstacles you had to conquer," he said. "We had to climb a 30-foot pole and then do a 180-degree turn at the top and jump off."
Maj. David Schwab, JROTC public affairs officer, said the cadets live in the same quarters that active-duty soldiers use at Camp Algiers, part of Grafenwöhr Training Area.
They are divided into companies, platoons and squads and take turns in various leadership roles in the exercises, he said.
"Everybody gets a chance to experience some leadership," Schwab said.
On Thursday, cadets were at Camp Kasserine, also inside the training area, doing the Leadership Reaction Course. The cadets were charged with moving themselves and equipment across obstacles such as water-filled ditches.
Other camp activities included running over the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy obstacle course, land navigation and rappelling, Schwab said.