High school students get taste of boot camp

FORT SILL, Okla._Junior ROTC cadets, 250 of them, are giving up one week of their summer vacation to get an experience of what it is like to be a soldier at Fort Sill.

Students from 18 Oklahoma high schools and one Texas high school are participating this year. Thursday, they tackled the Treadwell Tower, learning how to rappel while also building teamwork skills.

Camp offers them a glimpse into what it is like to go through basic training at Fort Sill. They've been waking up every day this week around 5:00 a.m. for physical training and going to bed around 10:00 p.m.

High school senior Ishata Pratt is one of 12 cadets from Eisenhower High School. She says the camp is getting more difficult with each passing day.

"Once it first started, it was fun and I was more awake towards the end. It is getting tiring and a little bit harder," said Pratt.

Pratt says her favorite part of camp has been the land navigation course they did Wednesday.

"We had a group of five people and we all walked around. They just told us our starting point, we measured our distance and then we just all went out and you had to be careful for snakes," said Pratt.

Fellow Eisenhower cadet Severin Simonsen has been in JROTC for one year. He says going through the obstacle courses has given him self-confidence.

"I have learned how to work in a team. How to be prepared for what is to come. To build up self-confidence to do things even when I doubt myself and feel as though I can't do it," said Simonsen.

Camp commander retired Lieutenant Colonel James Taylor has been working as a JROTC instructor in Lawton for the last 10 years. He says the mission of the camp is to teach these high school students to become better citizens.

"Above all, we know that this is not a program that produces soldiers. We want them to be better citizens. We want them to be better community leaders. We want them to be better sons and daughters to their parents and better students as well," said Taylor.

Friday, the cadets will be competing in a drill competition and there will be a camp graduation ceremony. They will leave Fort Sill Saturday morning.

This camp has been going on for about 20 years. It had traditionally been held at Camp Gruber, a National Guard training location, but they have held it at Fort Sill for the past two years.