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JROTC and Raiders excel

Bulldogg up

POSTED: July 26, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Karen Nowakowski/Barrow County News

WBHS sophomore Taylor Davis prepares to cross the rope bridge during the 2014 JROTC Raiders summer camp.

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Practice season for sports is just about up as classes get ready to start at the end of this coming week. While some students are running around getting their back to school supplies together, another group of students has been running around all summer.

The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Winder-Barrow High School has been working all summer long to better the community and stay fit for the year ahead. 

A prime concern for the future leaders has been offering their assistance at various events around town. In May, the group served at a Memorial Day ceremony at Winder’s Rose Hill Cemetery. Many cadets also served at the Independence Day celebration in Auburn and some took a chance to volunteer with the Defender of Freedom motorcycle ride to honor Georgia’s fallen veterans.

“[These events] all provided our cadets with the opportunity to volunteer their time, talents and energy,” first-year Senior Army Instructor and retired Lieutenant Colonel Todd Perkins. “As I complete my rookie year of teaching JROTC, I am amazed at how many different opportunities there were to serve as a volunteer for great causes right here in Barrow County.”

As cadets preparing for a life of citizenship and potential military service, community action is high on the JROTC priority lists.

“Whether it was presenting the national colors at a sporting event, visiting a nursing home or partnering with local agencies to support a coat and glove drive in the winter, our cadets showed up in great numbers to be part of the team,” Perkins added.

As vital as community service is to the cadets of the JROTC, physical fitness and preparation are also of the utmost importance. For that reason, this current group decided that they needed to offer a grueling and physical way to stay in shape.

Enter the 150-Mile running club. Over 10 weeks, the running club made it their goal to stay in shape for the upcoming year and try to avoid slacking off. 

“Many of our cadets agreed we needed a structured regimen over the summer to keep us healthy and to prepare us for the upcoming Raider competitive season,” Perkins noted. “More than 60 percent of those who signed up for the challenge were able to complete their mileage in the allotted 10-week period.”

Getting cadets out running was important, but they were not the only ones involved with the project.

“We cast an invitation to not only the cadets in the JROTC program, but also to parents, teachers and students to join us in a 10-week, physically demanding running challenge,” Perkins noted.

All of the work and exertion was, in part, an attempt at staying fit for the JROTC Raiders team. Raiders competitions involve ropes courses, obstacles and physical challenges similar to Ranger competitions and other similar challenges for military officers.

A typical Raiders event features five events with different events each time.

Although there is no set list for what a Raiders competition will be, some staples make fairly regular appearances. 

The first event at most competitions is a team run, ranging in distance from a mile and a half to a full 5K, with the longer races usually coming at the end of the season. The trick to a team run is that every member of the team must finish within 10 meters of each other. 

“You can have your fast guys go out early, but in the end, nobody can cross the finish line until everybody’s together. So it’s a team-building experience in group running,” Perkins explained.

After the team run, students can usually expect a rope bridge event, which simulates crossing dangerous terrain. The 10-person team has to work together to cross the dangerous linear field with a goal of completing in 90 to 70 seconds. 

The rope bridge is followed by a combat casualty rescue exercise. Four members of the team will carry something like a stretcher with a 150-pound human analogue sandbag while the other six will carry the backpacks of the others.

The CCR is generally a one-mile course featuring hills and other obstacles such as a ten-foot wall.

“The stretcher doesn’t go over the wall, but the team has to negotiate the wall and all the rucksacks have to go over the wall,” Perkins pointed out. “Two guys get up top and they hand them the rucksacks and they’ll drop it over to two other guys on the other side. So there’s some strategy involved, but mainly you just get faster, your times are better the better you work together.”

While not as common as the other three, a physical team test, or PTT, is also a frequent event. The PTT involves having student-athletes climbing short walls or crawling under nets over the ground, but generally that involves a shorter distance such as 600 or 800 meters.

“Your sprinters are usually better at that type of course because it’s a shorter course. It doesn’t require the endurance of a 5K,” Perkins mentioned.

Although it changes depending on the campus, the final event is generally going to be the archetypical obstacle course that people expect from JROTC competitions with low climbs and balance beams.

“You’d be surprised when everybody’s amped up and excited how hard it is to walk across a balance beam,” Perkins said. “It really takes the mental focus preparation both individually and as a team, and there are so many kids who are interested in doing it.”

Winder-Barrow’s first Raiders competition of the new academic year will be Saturday, Sept. 13 at Grayson High School.

“We offer a niche for a lot of kids,” Perkins added. “We offer a niche to about 150 kids in that school who really enjoy doing something that’s challenging and different.”

In addition to the athletic side of the JROTC with the Raiders team, Winder’s Bulldogg Battalion also fields a four-person academic bowl team. 

The 2013-14 group actually advanced to the third round of the national competition, placing them in the top 72 teams in the country.

“We started with 1,300 teams and we made it to the top 72 in the final rounds, so that focuses on the academic side,” Perkins mentioned. “That’s sort of the scholar piece.”

The JROTC operates under the Scholar-Athlete-Leader Model, also known as the SAL Model, to measure how well the student-athletes have learned from their time in the program.

That is the entire purpose of the JROTC and the Raiders, Perkins insisted, that students learn to combine their best physical and intellectual strengths to be a more complete citizen.

“With each new season, we challenge our cadets to raise the bar across the Scholar-Athlete-Leader Model of success and seek new ways to contribute to our local community,” Perkins said. “That’s what the Army uses to determine scholarships for college, and that’s sort of the metric we use to determine success.”



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