In a manner of speaking, East Surry High School’s annual Raider Team Challenge is about teaching the four R’s, by teaching to be successful in the United States Army is to be in the right place at the right time with the right uniform and the right attitude.
“The competition is very similar to many other Army events, it starts with a physical training test with standards just like active duty personnel,” said Major Denny Butcher.
He said the Saturday competition included challenges such as an obstacle course, mile run, a 5K run, a Humvee pull, a litter carry, knot tying and a rope bridge.
In addition to teams fielded by East Surry, others units in the 16-team challenge included Surry Central High School, Olympic High School of Charlotte, Parkland High School of Winston-Salem, Carroll County High School of Hillsville, Va., and Davie High School, Military & Global Leadership Academy of Charlotte/Mecklenburg Schools.
“In these events a team will typically consist of eight members with one alternate,” said Butcher. “You may switch out members when you change events. One of our most popular events is the rope bridge.” This particular challenge is a single rope, 55 feet in length tied between two posts, with participants trying to cover the distance between the poles. Butcher said many familiar events, such as the 5K race, are run according to standard operational procedures used by the Fourth Army Brigade of Fort Bragg. For instance, the 5K teams must finish together, with members motivating every other member of the team.
He said the knot tying competition consists of a variety knots including the wireman’s knot, bowline and square knot. Butcher said a lot of the reason for the challenges is to allow them to assess cadet’s mental abilities as it is their physical side.
“Typically the kids we have who participate in Raiders are already pretty well along with physical ability,” said Butcher. “The challenge kicks things up a notch so we can see how well they do under stress. There are a lot of other athletic opportunities for students out there and we try to fit our program in with this. We offer flag and drill team opportunities. This is a popular program with us fielding three teams for the challenge.”
He said scoring for the challenge is similar to track and field scoring with the total from places in events being added together with the lowest score winning. He said the instructors have enjoyed the popularity of the competition. First Sargent Richard Montgomery said he had been involved with the program for more than 11 years at East.
“I can’t stress enough that Raiders is not only about physical fitness,” Butcher said. “We are assessing how they work together and how mentally tough they are. Another important component of this is seeing how they will handle leadership roles on the teams and their tasks.”
Butcher said he has been impressed with the level of commitment shown by Raiders participants who wanted to improve their conditioning and practiced every day for weeks leading up to Saturday’s competition at East Surry. He said many of them met in the morning before school to run, regardless of weather.
“Some of the Raiders meet at the community center three times a week. The instructors don’t organize this, they (the students) do,” said Butcher. “They took responsibility, said they needed to get in better shape and would even go inside to work out in bad weather.”
He said that he is proud of the school’s group of more than 100 cadets who competed in nationals last year in Molina, Ga. for the first time. East’s A team finished fifth in that challenge and the B team was twelfth. He said another part of the Raider program is helping students who want to start a career in the military.
“We have some who want a JROTC scholarship or want to be in the military,” said Butcher. “This challenge helps them. Competition for active service duty has gotten even more selective. The military is more competitive in this time of drawdowns and smaller budgets. Now if you are not the best of the best they’re getting rid of you. We tell them to come out and do their best, not just in Raiders but in everything they do.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 336-719-1952.