No sugar at all? No cell phones? And no Internet?
Stars and Stripes June 24, 2007
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Eleven days without sugar, cell phones or the Internet is a challenge that few teens would relish.
But 117 Junior ROTC cadets are coming to terms with a ban on all of the above during the JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge summer camp at Grafenwöhr. The camp began last week and continues this week.
The cadets’ usual sugar fix has been replaced by an adrenalin rush as they canoe through white-water rapids and rappel down massive towers. And the void once filled with technology has been replaced by activities ranging from climbing and orienteering to drill contests and running through obstacle courses.
Camp activities include: canoeing on the Wiesent River, a high-ropes course, drown-proofing — in which cadets learn to use their uniforms as floatation devices — urban orienteering, drill competitions, land navigation at Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels, a leadership reaction course at Grafenwöhr in which teams negotiate obstacles, and rappelling and climbing.
Heidelberg American High School student Victoria Johnson, 16, said she’s finding the sugar ban hard to take and welcomed a respite when cadets were allowed to eat Snickers bars and drink Gatorade during a climbing session Thursday.
Maj. Bob Hase, director of Army instruction for Department of Defense Dependents Schools- Europe Junior ROTC, said the Army’s high operational tempo means the cadets spend less time interacting with soldiers during the camp than they used to.
“We used to do helicopter orientation and go out with the mech infantry for a day. Now, with all these assets heading downrange, they can’t support us,” he said.
The teens at the camp are among the top 10 percent of Junior ROTC cadets in Europe, he said.
“A lot of our cadets have parents who are deployed, so we are very supportive of their emotional needs. This is a great distraction for them,” he said.
Vilseck High School student Dominique Smith, 15, said he’d learned a lot about working with other people during the camp.
“Most of the events have you work as a team, and if you don’t know how to do it, you are pretty much lost,” he said.
Heidelberg American High School student Victoria Johnson, 16, agreed that team work is important.
“If you tried to do it by yourself you might make it, but nine times out of 10 you’d crack emotionally and physically,” she said, adding that she had yet to quit an event during the camp, but she had been close to quitting.
The camp has inspired Johnson to get into climbing, she said.
“Before I die I’d like to climb Mount Everest and Mount Fuji,” she said.
The cadets have a sense of humor. Johnson said she signed in a fox that went into the medical tent one night while she was on fire watch.
Smith rated the high-ropes course as the best part of the camp.
“If you are up there 10 meters above and look down and you only have two ropes that keep you from falling, it is pretty exciting and it helps a lot of people to get over their fear of heights,” he said.