Simulated JROTC basic training builds confidence, teaches teamwork

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
More than 100 cadets, representing 6 high schools throughout Arizona, gathered May 27 to June 3 at Camp Navajo, in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a week-long Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadet Leadership Course.

The course is an annual week-long summer camp that provides an opportunity for cadets from different schools and backgrounds to learn about leadership, teamwork, respect for others and the Air Force core values. Throughout the course, cadets perform exercises in drill and ceremony, receive classroom instruction and complete field courses such as athletic competition, land navigation, escape and evade, and capture the flag.

The course was overseen by Senior Master Sgt. Alex Brown, a former Air Force basic military training instructor and current member of the 161st Logistics Readiness Squadron. He also served as the liaison for all of the course's military instructors, who volunteer from all over the state; to include Arizona Air National Guard members, university ROTC cadets and active duty Airmen.

Tech. Sgt. Clarence Forster, first time course instructor and 161st Force Support Squadron member, said one of the course's main goals is to build self-confidence. He said some of the at-risk students leave the course with a new sense of worth and the knowledge they can accomplish something great.

"It's not easy coming in and having grown men hollering at you, but the cadets come together as flights and cheer each other on as they accomplish tasks and obstacles," said Forster. "You'd be surprised at how quickly these kids change or morph from being shy and quiet to having extreme confidence."

He said one particular cadet will always stand out to him. At the beginning of the course the cadet lacked confidence and was unable to perform many of the drill facing movements that his peers were able to perform, but by the end of the course his confidence and drill maneuvers had drastically improved.

"The first few days I was really hard on him, but he always wanted to know how he was doing and what he should do to improve," said Forster. "I would pull him out of formation and work with him on a one-on-one basis. I was really impressed and I couldn't have more respect for that young man."

He said he was so impressed with the cadet that he presented a challenge coin to him. Each year, at the end of the course, the military instructors have an opportunity to present a challenge coin to a cadet they feel made a difference; a cadet that went from the bottom to the top.

"I presented my coin to him because I felt he embodied the Air Force core value of excellence in all we do," said Forster. "I explained to him and to all the cadets that excellence in all we do is a continuous strive for excellence. It doesn't mean you are the best, it doesn't mean you do everything perfectly, but it means trying to be better than you were the day before."

He said he is grateful that he was able to be an instructor and that it was a rare chance to help guide young people in a positive direction and have a positive impact in their lives. 

A returning instructor from the 161st Air Refueling Wing equal opportunity office, Staff Sgt. Jamie Hanson, said she is also thankful for the opportunity to participate and help instill confidence in the youth.

"It's such a great feeling to know I've made an impression on the cadets," said Hanson. "We are tough with the cadets in the beginning, but then we start building them up as a team and individually. It is so awesome to see it them at the end of the course with such strong individual and team confidence. The relationships and experiences you get to have with the kids is almost indescribable."