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Rappel, march, shoot, Army JROTC style at leadership camp
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Richard Skinner rappels down a wall Thursday while participating in the Junior ROTC leadership camp at Riverside Military Academy. - photo by Tom Reed

Regional members of the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps can be found rappelling, canoeing, shooting and marching in the Gainesville area this week.

About 130 high school students, 42 of them girls, are participating in the U.S. Army-sponsored JROTC Leadership Camp at Riverside Military Academy. Five other high schools in addition to Riverside are participating in the camp.

Jeff Chandler, senior army instructor for Riverside Military Academy, said the students are participating in adventure activities to make friends and find out what they’re made of.

"The U.S. Army sponsors this camp so students from different schools can see what other students have learned and so they can bond and build that JROTC camaraderie," he said. "The goal is, one, to have fun. But they also get evaluated on leadership positions and those are sent back to their school for their rankings."

Chandler said if cadets give it all they’ve got at the leadership camp this week, it might merit a JROTC promotion this upcoming school year.

Students from Banks County, Adairsville, Cass, LaFayette and Dalton high schools also are participating in the camp, Chandler said.

"The idea is for them to see what it’d be like if they went into the military and were sleeping in dorms," he said. "Not many go into the military, but they always ask questions."

Richard Skinner, a rising senior at LaFayette High School, said he believes the training he’s receiving at the camp will better prepare him to meet the challenges of being a JROTC leader this fall at his high school.

"I’m afraid of heights and they made me rappel twice," Skinner said. "The only way to really grow as a person is to get outside your shell and test your limits."

Chief Master Sgt. Budell Willis said Jefferson High School also is host to a JROTC leadership camp this week. The program combines physical and academic sessions for students in Air Force JROTC.

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