JROTC Cadets Build Leadership Skills At Schofield ‘Challenge’
By LT. COL. TIM SCHILLER
Special to MidWeek Central Oahu Islander
Schofield Barracks was invaded last month by more than 400 JROTC cadets, eager to test their leadership, fitness and military skills in a series of challenges courtesy of Schofield’s 25th Infantry Division.
The annual event brought in Army, Air Force and Marine Corps cadets from 19 schools in an effort to find out who best represents their school and JROTC unit.
Three to four cadets from each school were picked to attend the Advanced JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge (AJCLC), which prepares them mentally and physically for the arrival of the rest of their colleagues.
The selected cadets were challenged with squad drill, platoon drill, physical fitness and a job interview to determine which leadership position they wanted for the Challenge. They alo had to write a paper on leadership.
As cadets began arriving on buses from around the island, the cadet leaders from AJCLC greeted them and quickly in-processed the newly arrived cadets and got them started setting up more than 35 general purpose medium tents.
Cadets were divided into four training groups, each with a chain of command representing a battalion, and all four groups made up the JCLC Training Brigade.
The Mililani Trojan Battalion sent 37 cadets to attend JCLC, four of whom were selected to attend AJCLC.
Mililani’s current battalion operations officer, Cadet Lt. Andrea Thayne, a junior at Mililani High, was chosen executive officer for Group Four.
Thayne’s main focus was to make sure the company commander’s orders were carried out, and to step up to command if the commander was not present.
Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Natasha Parowski’s mission was to ensure battalion NCOs did their job, got to the training events on time, and had to keep the cadets motivated.
Mililani’s Cadet Lt. Madeline Lee was selected to be Group Four’s bravo company commander and rotational battalion commander.
Lee is a Mililani High sophomore who was responsible for the cadets in her training group. The last Mililani cadet selected was Cadet First Sgt. Will Pagonis.
Pagonis was comfortable in this position as he holds the same position at Mililani High School.
“The opportunity to lead 100 cadets was the most rewarding experience I ever had in JROTC,” said Pagonis. “Before you get out in front of 100 cadets, you’d better know your job or your cadets will lose confidence in your leadership abilities really fast.”
Cadets assigned to each of the four training groups rotated throughout Schofield Barracks and East Range Training Complex, and participated in adventure training such as rappelling off the 60-foot tower, crossing a rope-bridge, and taking on the leadership reaction course and obstacle course.
At the rappelling site, safety was the main issue.
Each cadet who went through the station was connected by a commercial seat harness.
Some of the cadets were terrified, but with the encouragement of the others and coaching from qualified army instructors, every cadet found success.
The rope-bridge construction and competition were led by the 9th Mission Support Command Sgt. First Class Ryan Almagro and members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regiment.
Cadets were divided from their training groups and each constructed a rope bridge over a simulated river. Once the bridge was completed, each member of the team had to cross the bridge using techniques they learned at the leadership challenge.
The leadership reaction course challenged the cadets to work as a team while using critical thinking to solve complicated problems. Cadets were placed in leadership positions and within 20 minutes had to negotiate the obstacle.
The final event was the obstacle course. Cadets had to go down into a ravine and navigate through several obstacles, just like the soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division.
The cadets, tired but prideful about their accomplishments, showed that the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps’s mission – “To motivate young people to become better citizens” – is alive and working.