BY TAYLOR MANDEL
Three senior and one sophomore Cooper City High School (CCHS) NJROTC (Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) members attended the Area 7 Leadership Academy at the Admiral Farragut Military Academy this past summer, from June 6-12.
The weeklong camp is sponsored by the U.S. Navy, and was led by Marine and Naval drill instructors.
“The camp was created to make NJROTC cadets better leaders, attain better skills, and do a better job at their positions,” Commanding Officer senior Daniel Yanks said. “But just because it’s a summer camp, doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games.”
According to Yanks, the general mood of the academy was always very serious. It maintained the atmosphere of a real boot camp and military environment. This military-like atmosphere had an enormous impact on the way that the cadets learned. The academy instructors were all top Naval and Marine Corps instructors, and the lessons that the cadets learned were based on real experiences that these officers and enlisted men went through.
“The cadets can’t learn in school the same way that they can learn in the camp,” Yanks said. “There are too many restrictions at school to really get a feel for what it is actually like.”
Much was expected of the cadets at the academy. Cadets had to be extremely motivated and dedicated to the NJROTC program. They were expected to recall everything they learned, and apply it to real life situations.
“Cadets would get yelled at for every little thing, even just wiping the sweat off their faces,” Operations Officer senior Heather Rossi said. “You were only allowed to use military time, and if you spoke to anybody, you would get dropped.”
A normal day at the academy lasted 20 hours. Waking up, known in the military as reveille, was at 4:30 am, followed by physical training including running and pushups. Following that came drill instruction. After long hours of instruction, came academics, more physical activity, and eventually dinner. After dinner, cadets had a grueling, five mile run.
“It was very difficult to fall asleep at night,” Rossi said. “If you had watch duty, you had to patrol the hallways for two hours to make sure everyone was sleeping before you could go to sleep.”
According to NJROTC cadets, the benefits gained from the leadership academy are improved leadership skills, understanding their positions better, and increased motivation and discipline.
Some skills that were learned include using a command voice instead of yelling, and taking criticism in a positive way. Cadets were also taught the same military skills that real Marine Corps officers use.
Although the camp is voluntary, Yanks advocates for other members to attend. Not all cadets can attend the academy though, a spot must be earned in order to attend the camp. Only the most motivated and dedicated cadets are given the privilege to attend.
“The cadets who attended the camp know that they have accomplished something, spending their own summer vacation waking up at dawn to be disciplined for 20 hours, and the unit really respects that,” Yanks said.
The NJROTC cadets that attended the academy have made huge improvements in their performance since leaving the camp. They are more reliable and better prepared for the upcoming challenges that the unit faces. They also have a better understanding of their role as leaders in NJROTC. Since the first day of school, the cadets in leadership positions have taken charge of the unit and established a sound discipline foundation.
“The academy has given the cadets a strong dose of leadership skills which in return helps our unit,” James Sloan CCHS NJROTC Naval Science instructor said, “The leadership graduates are heavily relied upon in keeping the unit organized.”
The academy also has made an impact in the commanding style of Daniel Yanks.
“The academy gave me the different views from commanding to being commanded,” Yanks said. “It taught me the correct ways to deal with discipline problems and how to perform drills and ceremonies in the correct way.”
Although it was a week full of constant discipline and training, most of the attendees felt it was a week to remember. NJROTC hopes that the cadets who attended the academy will carry on the lifelong skills and lessons that they learned.
“It was a treacherous experience,” Rossi said. “And you have to be completely dedicated in order to make it through.”