JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (6/6/2012) - During
last week's JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge summer camp at
JBER, cadets leapt out of the 34-foot jump tower, traversed
the 35-foot rappel tower, rode by the open doors of UH-60
Black Hawk helicopters, learned survival-swimming skills and
successfully negotiated a grueling obstacle course.
Army Capt. Andrew Scott, 6th Engineer Battalion, inspects the harness of Colony High School Junior ROTC Cadet Nathan Sidell,
15, before the cadet climbs the stairs of the 34-foot jump tower
June 1, 2012 at the Airborne Sustainment Training Area. Photo by
Retired Army Lt. Col. Butch Diotte, Colony High School JROTC senior
Army instructor, said because almost all of the events involve
overcoming the natural fear of heights through faith in their
equipment and newly acquired skills, cadets were challenged to break
through the barriers of their perceived limits.
challenge for a lot of the cadets,” Diotte said. “It challenges them
physically and mentally – instills mental toughness.
the jump tower, some cadets had concerns and fears, but they
overcame them,” he continued. “Now, their confidence is much
One Colony cadet, clad in parachute harness,
helmet and dummy reserve parachute, froze in the door when she could
see just how high above the ground she was.
It wasn't long
before her fellow cadets gathered at the bottom of the tower to
After a few minutes of nearly jumping before recoiling back
into the door, the cadet stepped out – dropping several feet
before the parachute risers countered the unforgiving force
Wild cheers broke out among her fellow
cadets, a confident smile beamed across her face as she was
extracted from the harness.
The fear is something
Cadet Cannon Jurrens, Bartlett High School cadet battalion
commander, said she can identify with.
For her, it
was willfully lowering herself over the precipice of the
rappel tower and assuming a good L-shape before bounding 35
feet to safety.
“I cried the first time I rappelled
off the tower,” Jurrens said with a laugh. “But now, it's
really easy, and I think it helps me with the rest of my
life. I'm not scared to do a lot of other things that I
would have been scared to do, because I know I'm capable of
“Cadets get to face their fears,” she
continued. “They get more confidence. They get to learn
structure and learn a little bit of discipline.”
Structure is a subject that comes up quite often in JROTC
circles during JCLC. Diotte said cadets are organized like
an Army battalion, complete with a cadet staff, companies,
platoons and squads.
“A lot of the kids need
structure in their life,” the colonel said. “Some of the
kids – when they come in their freshman year – are brand new
to the whole discipline thing. It takes them awhile to
figure it out. But you would be to see the improvement after
“You'll have a wise guy starting out in the
fall, but by spring he's one that's a squad leader who's
giving orders because he's matured. It's a good structure.”
Diotte, a career CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilot,
recently retired after serving as the U.S. Army Alaska
He said the most rewarding
assignment of his career was a tour as an ROTC instructor at
Penn State University. He pursued an instructorship at
Colony High School because he enjoys helping to mold the
character of youth within a military framework.
Despite the established framework, Diotte said JROTC is not
a recruiting tool for the military. The mission of the
program, he said, is to “motivate young people to be better
citizens.” In support of the mission, Diotte said JROTC
emphasizes community-service events throughout the year.
“Everything we do is citizenship based,” he said.
Jurrens said – though she joined JROTC to help with
college applications – the appeal of the discipline and
structure quickly helped her decide to pursue a military
officer's commission. She has applied to all of the military
service academies as well as to Dartmouth, Stanford and
Throughout the week, cadets received
instruction, facilities and range support from Alaska Army
National Guard and USARAK Soldiers. Diotte said he feels
fortunate to be near a base that can support a robust JCLC.
“The facilities are really great here at JBER,” he said.
“We've had nothing but superb support from both the active
duty and the National Guard.”
More photos available below
By David Bedard
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs
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