Local Junior ROTC members experience taste of Air Force during summer leadership school

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78 ABW/PA
High school students from throughout Middle Georgia took over the Robins NCO Academy last week in preparation to be the leaders in tomorrow's armed forces.

The students spent the week living in the academy dorms as cadets, or lower classmen, and cadres, or upper classmen, as part of an annual Air Force Junior ROTC Summer Leadership School.

The school offers the students the opportunity to deal with a peer group in a subordinate atmosphere, said Col. Craig Lightfoot, commandant of the summer leadership school and senior aerospace science instructor at Perry High School.

"We (the instructors) function as guides. We give them the perameters and the rules of engagement and then give them a complete as possible opportunity to guide a training facility for one week," said Senior Master Sgt. Antoine Jackson, NCO in charge of pass in review for the leadership school and senior aerospace science instructor at Warner Robins High School.

The school is designed to foster citizenship, team building, leadership, respect for authority, physical fitness and academic achievement.

"It's an opportunity to grow as individuals and as Junior ROTC cadets," Sergeant Jackson said.

The event helps the students learn about life as a member of the military. The instructors compare the leadership school to the equivalent of Airmen Leadership School or the NCO academy for enlisted members of the Air Force.

"It teaches you to be a leader and teaches you to become a better cadet overall," said Cadre Zach Floyd, 16, from Twiggs County High School.

The cadets reported to PT each morning at 5:45 a.m. and continued with training activities until nightfall each day. In addition to physical training, there was military education. The cadets were responsible for memorizing portions of "the knowledge book" and those that didn't would receive chits, or slips of paper used much like a demerit system.

For Cadet Jake Riley, 15, reciting the aircraft of the day or the quote of the day from the knowledge book was second nature by late Friday afternoon.

He rattled off the two aircraft of the day effortlessly. "KC-135 and KC-10," he said.

Followed by, "No guts no glory. If you are going to shoot him down you have to get in there and mix it up with him, Fred C. 'Boots' Blesse," Cadet Riley said.

During chow, Cadet Riley's ability to rattle off the information was partially motivated by the fear of reprimand from the cadres as failure to recite the information would have result in a chit. The cadets also earn chits for not wearing the uniform properly, not drinking enough water, being late or anything else considered punishable by the cadres.

However, Cadre Floyd said you can't discipline your subordinates for something you aren't willing to do yourself.

"You have to lead by example. You can't tell them something is wrong with their uniform if there is something wrong with yours," Cadre Floyd said.

When a cadet earned five chits during the day, he or she was put on chit detail during the evening break instead of being allowed to join other cadets at break. Those on chit detail were made to shine shoes or do sprints, push-ups or lunges.

It isn't just the cadets who have the opportunity to develop important life skills during the leadership school. The cadres also gained valuable leadership training.

"You learn from your previous cadres mistakes and how they treated you. You put yourselves in the cadet's place," said Cadre Alex Vinge, 16 from Warner Robins High School.

The cadres and cadets learned it is more effective to correct someone when they are away from the other cadets than when they are surrounded by their peers.

"If one person messes up take them out of the flight and talk to them one on one," Cadet Riley said.

During the day cadets and cadres participate in uniform inspections, guidon training, drills, physical fitness challenges and survival training, where students learn to build fires, make shelter and locate fresh water.

"Each one gets a chance to be in a leadership position where they lead a squadron or flight," said Colonel Lightfoot.

Though for Cadre Vinge the highlight of her week was only hours away, as the opportunity approached to visit the "healing waters," also known as the enlisted club pool. The "healing waters" have the ability to make all the sore muscles and fatigue disappear as the camp nears an end and the cadets and cadres prepared for their graduation from the leadership school.

"Everyone complains about something until they announce we can visit the 'healing waters.' And, then all the cadets and cadres are miraculously healed because until the announcement comes they can't move and then when they say we can go to the 'healing waters' they are healed and jump up and go," Cadre Vinge said.