LAKE WALES, Fla. — Future military members from across the Bay area are becoming better leaders, thanks to a summer camp.
Nearly 400 high school cadets are getting a week of hands-on experience in a military type environment at Camp Flaming Arrow in Lake Wales. The JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge (JCLC) is a mentally and physically demanding summer camp.
“It is hard work, this is really. We're heating up. We’re drinking water all the time, got to go the bathroom. We’re walking everywhere. You might not be comfortable but it’s definitely worth it,” said Hannah Gerdes.
Cadets wake up at 5:00 am and end the day around 6:00 pm. The day is full of activities like rock climbing, rappelling, army water survival training and leaders' reaction course. These exercises teach cadets to assume leadership roles within their schools.
“You have to learn to listen, and you have to learn to lead. You can't lead and listen at the same time. If you're taking orders, you're taking them, if you're giving them, you're giving them,” Gabriel Cruz-Gonzalez said.
The U.S. Army sponsors the all-expense-paid camp. “We’re getting them out of their comfort zone. We're teaching them how to be uncomfortable. I've watched them get on the high ropes and repel, go down these towers and they're terrified but once they accomplish it, they want to do it again and they're very proud of themselves,” said SFC Marcus Fontaine.
Part of the camp also involves developing their self-discipline, communication skills and building better citizens. All important skills needed for those who hope to join the armed forces one day.
“One of the most important things I've learned here is teamwork. You can't do anything, you can't function without somebody else’s help, even though you might think that you can do it by yourself, you will always need some type of help,” Gerdes said.