Elkin High School cadets Grant Lloyd, Matthew Waddell, Alex Dickerson, Dulce Rodriquez and Amy Javier spent five of their summer days in boot camp style recently at the Oak Ridge Military Academy with cadets from 23 other high schools.
Elkin High School JROTC instructors Maj. Roy Ferguson and Sgt. Kenneth Abrams with the cadets at ORMA reported good performances by the Elkin five. In the process, they learned teamwork and camaraderie with others, he said.
Ferguson chuckled when he recalled how in true drill sergeant style, Abrams, once a drill sergeant in the military, gives cadets a taste of the “real thing.”
“The sergeant’s voice is loud and penetrating and he is always motivating cadets to do their best and wants them to represent the school well and not to make ‘stupid mistakes,’” said Ferguson.
He gets down to brass tacks in a hurry, added the major.
Ferguson said through Abrams, cadet campers learned a basic known as getting their room “squared away.” In the drill, beds are made, rooms mopped and wall lockers polished by cadets after waking up at 5:30 a.m. each day.
At the end of the day, Ferguson said he is impressed how Abrams dons a different hat, that of a fatherly one, and is known for helping others through hardships, in another form of teaching students important life lessons.
After “squaring away” rooms, cadets prepared for physical training, known as PT, then moved into platoon drills. After PT, cadets showered and cleaned, then conducted morning formation, then went again to more platoon drills and finally into the dining facility.
After lunch, Ferguson conducted marksmanship drills as the officer-in-charge (OIC), training cadets in battlefield rifle marksmanship (BRM). In the drill, Ferguson taught the five techniques of how to fire a rifle, taught different shooting positions and other techniques, such as breath control.
The Army major laughed at the thought of keeping up with the young cadets in general as an officer who has been retired from active duty and says he is confident he can hold his own. He proclaimed, “I am 39 years old when I am training with the cadets.”
Ferguson said the group was privileged to enjoy good food and good cooks throughout the camp and called it a highlight.
Ferguson said they learned specialty drills throughout the week that involved team work. During the 70-foot rappel tower drill, cadets learned to tie a Swiss seat, use ropes and tie knots, and first rappel 20 feet.
After sufficient proficiency was proven, they moved to propel at the 70-foot height. The purpose is to build confidence in themselves, instructors and their equipment.
Ferguson said the drill reinforces the attributes of personal courage, and called it a value held in high esteem by the Army.
The obstacle course activity involved a series of 23 obstacles designed to evaluate speed and how well one negotiates through the obstacles. How well the cadets maintained their balance and how well they can work together as a team was evaluated.
On another drill with an eight-foot wall, three cadets were responsible for helping to get each other over. There were stops on chin-up bars and balancing on logs high in the air that were part of the drill.
In another event called drown proofing, cadets were trained on how to remove their combat uniform in the swimming pool and learn to use it as a flotation device.
One of the more fun events for the cadets involved swim relays, said Ferguson.
Nightly, the cadets competed with other platoons in sporting events such as volleyball, dodgeball and tug-of-war. They developed camaraderie among the many 33-member platoons, said Ferguson.
The cadets selected to go to camp are those who are expected to be leaders and future staff officers, said Ferguson. He also said they are picked from different grade classifications.
Ferguson said there were some fancy drills with rifles that they do not perform at Elkin, but some are wanting to try them in the future.
Awards and streamers also were given for performances.
Ferguson said, “We saw some great performance in regulation drills, but no one who out-shined Elkin.”
Elkin has a good group of cadets who should be strong for next year, he added.
Ferguson said strength in the Elkin program is found in its diversity. “We have a good cross-section, males and females and a good presence of all different ethnic groups. We attract a good representation of the community.”
Ferguson said a lot of parents have expressed their happiness and excitement about their sons and daughters in the JROTC program.
He thanked Elkin City Schools Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe along with Principal Joel Hoyle, and Assistant Principal Cassundra Morrison for all their support.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.