Yokota cadets leave classroom for Mount Fuji
October 25, 2007
CAMP FUJI, Japan — While many of their fellow students were sitting in class back at Yokota Air Base on Monday and Tuesday, a group of 70 cadets from Yokota High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Panther Battalion were outdoors, getting a different kind of education at the base of Mount Fuji.
As part of the annual two-day training event, the battalion went to Camp Fuji to practice land navigation, rappelling, and negotiating the Marines’ obstacle courses, said retired Lt. Col. Robert F. Mateer III, the senior Army instructor for the Yokota JROTC.
More than just the chance to test their military knowledge, the training — especially the land navigation — gave the cadets the chance to practice such life skills as communication, leadership and teamwork, Mateer said.
“They have to work together with students not usually in their class,” he said. “They start together and finish together.”
During the land-navigation training, the cadets were divided into 15 groups, each tasked with locating five white ammunition cans set at a specific locations. The hunt had the cadets traversing streams, climbing through thick brush and hiking up steep hills.
Using a protractor, compass and maps, each team figured out its location and plotted the direction to the next point, or objective.
“I like this class a lot better than my regular classes,” said Yasmina Yeager, a ninth-grader and first-year cadet. “In math and literature, you are just sitting down at a desk, but in JROTC you’re actually doing stuff.”
Robert Rodell, the cadet commander and a senior at Yokota, said the training gives the cadets a chance to work together and test their leadership abilities.
Working through the rough terrain was the most challenging part for Angelica Lunod, a 10th-grade student and first-year JROTC cadet.
Despite the hard work, “It’s fun,” she said. “Especially when you find a point, because you get a sense of accomplishment.”
One of the range-safety officers for the event, Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Leopard, said the challenging terrain of Fuji’s land navigation course is “pretty difficult” compared to other courses he’s experienced.
“It’s very hilly, and in some places, the bushes are so thick you could be right next to your point and not even know it,” he said.
Some groups of cadets found this out firsthand, wandering the course without finding more than a few points during their allotted five hours.
Said cadet Phillip Williams upon returning to the rendezvous point at the end of the day: “We went here; we went there; we were lost everywhere. Hooah!”