JROTC cadets attend Summer Leadership Camp at JBER

Thursday, June 16, 2016 - 16:22

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Students from 10 Alaska high schools participated in the Junior ROTC Summer Leadership Camp at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, from May 23 to June 10, 2016.

JBER hosted three iterations of the week-long camp were hosted where attendees participated in various camp events which included driving in a simulated convoy through IED-lined streets; a turkey hunt where cadets fired M-4s in a virtual-reality shooting range; rappelling down a tower; performing rollover scenarios in Humvees and demonstrations of Explosive Ordnance Disposal and military working dogs.

“The intent is to teach leadership skills, time management, and how to take care of people and resources,” said Keith Coulter, an Air Force JROTC instructor with the Anchorage School District.

High school freshmen through seniors participated in the camp where each day’s activities focused on a theme, he said.

Accountability, courtesies, professionalism, courage, and morale and welfare were among the topics covered.

“Today is a courage day,” Coulter said, as he stood in front of the rappel tower. “It’s about overcoming your fears. Trust the equipment; trust the training.

“If you do what you’re supposed to do, you won’t be hurt. Don’t do it and there will be consequences.”

Students surpassed their perceived limitations at the camp.

“This has been a challenge for me,” said Alexa-Ann Roehl, 17, a student at West High School, as she motioned toward the rappel tower.

Roehl said she is afraid of heights; however, after conquering the tower, she discovered a newfound courage.

The camp experience also inspired some students to do a bit of self-reflection.

“[I learned] that I can do more than I think I can,” Roehl said. “[I learned] that I just need to put my fears aside, because I will be fine.”

Every activity and interaction is a potential learning experience for the JROTC cadets.

“This is an educational environment,” said Coulter, a retired Air Force master sergeant. “When they fail, they learn. When they make mistakes, they learn. Our job as instructors is to forgive and help them develop tools to help them become leaders.”

Participating in the camp also allows students to see where they can potentially be in a few years.

“There’s a realization that a lot of the people running the [camp] support are not much older than they are,” Coulter said.

At the same time, the camp exposes students to military culture – which some students may be experiencing for the first time.

“Most of these kids do not come from military families so this is their first taste of military structure and organization,” Coulter said.

For some students, military service may not be a possibility, Coulter said. Medical or other reasons bar some from applying.

“This is as close they may get,” he said. “But we teach that you don’t have to be in the military to serve your nation.”

Summer camp on JBER allows students and staff to realize their potential.

“I love working with [these kids],” Coulter said. “It’s the thing I always wanted to do and didn’t know. When I retired, I was really concerned about not being a part of a bigger picture. … I [am] just so impressed with what I am able to do. I am able to shape kids to become great citizens and that’s what it’s all about.”

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