Teenagers, whether it’s fair or not, aren’t typically viewed as disciplined, and people of all ages most likely would not volunteer to wake up at 3 a.m. For students enrolled in Polytech High School’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or JROTC Raider program, an early wake-up call and an intense training program aren’t just the norm, they are part of a concerted effort to improve mental dexterity and physical strength.
Polytech’s JROTC students won Delaware’s 2016 Raider Challenge, the first year they competed. The competition challenges teenagers to work as a team to overcome multiple obstacles.
Senior Master Sgt. Shane Eaton and Lt. Col. Theo Dressler helped students hone their skills for the competition. “It’s all about teamwork, working as a team and getting to know each other, even if you don’t like each other. We talk to them a lot about teambuilding,” said Lt. Col. Dressler.
The Raider name dates back to World War II, when small teams of soldiers were sent behind enemy lines to conduct raids or gather reconnaissance. According to Lt. Col. Dressler, “They would send small teams behind enemy lines to do various things, but they didn’t really have much equipment, they didn’t have much of a training doctrine and they just learned how to do stuff. They had to come up with ways to get through obstacles.”
Keeping with tradition, the Raider Challenge involves tests of stamina, strength and mental agility. Eight students run a 5k, take part in a rope-tying relay and a litter carry, which simulates the removal of an injured person.
The one rope challenge is also part of the competition. “An eight-man team has to get across the river. In this case it’s not a real river, it’s mud. The first guy has to run across the river while the team secures the line. The whole team has to go across the rope without touching the water. Every time you touch the water, you get penalties,” said Polytech senior and Team Leader Derrick Dinuova, who will be joining the U.S. Marine Corps.
In less than three minutes, the students build a rope bridge and cross it, an incredible test of stamina. To help the team practice, the Co-op donated and installed four utility poles at Polytech High School.
Students said they don’t mind getting up early to practice.
According to Dinuova, “It’s helped me a lot mentally and physically for when things don’t quite go your way. You learn how you’re going to solve these problems. There are lots of real-life scenarios that are incorporated here.” He added, “It’s always a lot of fun, but we do take it seriously. We do a lot of conditioning, a lot of the fun comes through competition when we get to brag a bit towards other teams, show them we’re better than them, or if they’re better than us, we can learn a few things.”
The team will head to the National Raider Challenge Competition in Georgia in November and all of us at DEC wish them the best of luck.