For the past nine weeks, Prescott High School’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) hosted a Leadership Laboratory once weekly, but this week they left campus and came to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. In a special treat to mark the end of the first quarter of classes, JROTC cadets learned valuable leadership lessons from ERAU ROTC cadets.
Starting in the late afternoon, JROTC cadets arrived from all across northern Arizona, including places like Camp Verde, Sedona, and Cottonwood. The only one of its kind, Prescott High School’s AFJROTC is a distance learning class for half of the week, allowing students to look up the lessons on YouTube. Retired Air Force Colonel Denny Peeples runs the program and says it is a great experience to influence so many kids’ lives. The program is entering its second year as a distance learning class, and ninth year in existence.
While at Embry-Riddle, JROTC cadets participated in the ERAU AFROTC’s Leadership Reaction Course. The course, designed to give AFROTC cadets leadership experience in small group settings, gave the JROTC cadets a new and fun way to practice their leadership outside the classroom.
The course includes several obstacles that each group must attempt. The ROTC proctors chose one leader for each obstacle and gave a scenario; that leader then had to explain to his or her group the rules and guide them through the obstacle. The course contains a large variety of scenarios, ranging from a wall that the entire team must climb to navigating through a net.
To emphasize the leadership experiences of the cadets, proctors applied several disabilities, like the inability to talk, not being able to touch certain areas, and time penalties. The cadets must then overcome this adversity to complete the mission. Blake Colson, one of the proctors, was very impressed at the creativity of the JROTC cadets, saying, “In three years, I’ve never seen someone try this obstacle that way.”
Only by working as a team, can the cadets complete the obstacles, which gives cadets the opportunity to both practice and learn leadership in a practical scenario. After each situation, ROTC proctors debriefed the JROTC cadets on what went well and what did not. They stressed the importance of clear, concise communication, and what they call the “OODA Loop,” or observe, orient, decide, act. After completing the first few stations and hearing this feedback, the cadets improved markedly at the later events.
After debriefing the JROTC cadets, the proctors fielded questions about college life, the Air Force, and plans after high school. Several high school students asked questions about joining Air Force ROTC in college, and a few even expressed a desire to go to Embry-Riddle.
Finally, in an example of superb trust, Col. Peeples had the JROTC cadets catch him in a trust fall before wrapping up the successful leadership laboratory.