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Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet Josh Fanti, 15, from Wiesbaden, Germany, strains his guts out to finish one more push-up during the final physical training competition of the JROTC’s annual summer camp at the Grafenwöhr training area Tuesday. Fanti was one of 113 high school students who spent 10 days honing everything from orienteering to canoeing skills at the camp, which ends Wednesday.

Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet Josh Fanti, 15, from Wiesbaden, Germany, strains his guts out to finish one more push-up during the final physical training competition of the JROTC’s annual summer camp at the Grafenwöhr training area Tuesday. Fanti was one of 113 high school students who spent 10 days honing everything from orienteering to canoeing skills at the camp, which ends Wednesday. (Ben Murray / S&S)

Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet Josh Fanti, 15, from Wiesbaden, Germany, strains his guts out to finish one more push-up during the final physical training competition of the JROTC’s annual summer camp at the Grafenwöhr training area Tuesday. Fanti was one of 113 high school students who spent 10 days honing everything from orienteering to canoeing skills at the camp, which ends Wednesday.

Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet Josh Fanti, 15, from Wiesbaden, Germany, strains his guts out to finish one more push-up during the final physical training competition of the JROTC’s annual summer camp at the Grafenwöhr training area Tuesday. Fanti was one of 113 high school students who spent 10 days honing everything from orienteering to canoeing skills at the camp, which ends Wednesday. (Ben Murray / S&S)

Mannheim High School student Adam Hockenjos gets some tips on making a smooth descent from a high platform.

Mannheim High School student Adam Hockenjos gets some tips on making a smooth descent from a high platform. (Ben Murray / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — If any of the 113 Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets in Grafenwöhr still had doubts about a military career when they showed up to camp, those doubts were swept away when Black Hawks showed up to give them a lift.

A ride in an Army helicopter, a tour in a tank or Bradley fighting vehicle and activities ranging from a canoe trip to an afternoon on a ropes course were some of the highlights in this year’s JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge, students said Tuesday.

“The tanks are awesome,” said 16-year-old Brittany Morris from Patch High School in Stuttgart.

The cadets were on the ninth day of the annual 10-day summer camp at the training area, where four platoons of high school students compete for the title of “honor platoon.”

The camp is designed to be a fun way to give JROTC participants a little taste of military life, students said, including barracks inspections, physical training and Meals, Ready to Eat.

“It basically gives you a basic idea of how basic training would be,” said Reuben Merkes, 16, also from Stuttgart.

Many said the experience reinforced their decisions to pursue military service, with even the drudgery of shining their boots viewed as a learning experience — and a nice break from the physical activity.

“It makes you really want the real thing,” Morris said.

And summer camp, as always, has been the launch pad for new friendships between JROTC members from around Europe.

“You come in as a stranger,” said 16-year-old Katherine Alegado. “But you come out as a family.”


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