While most future high school freshmen were sleeping late or enjoying a lazy morning last week, about 30 teenagers were battling slalom skis, ankle angst, a spider web and plain ol' hot weather.
These are youngsters who will enter Minden High School later this year and, hopefully, will become members of the Junior ROTC program. For three days last week, the group participated in a summer camp at the former Webster Parish Alternative School designed to teach the tenants of ROTC.
"This is the second year for our summer camp, and we're happy with the attendance and the performance of our cadets and the campers," said Lt. Col. Bob Peden (U.S. Army, Ret.), senior instructor of the Minden High School program. "This is a cadet led program where our juniors and seniors plan and execute...they run the program."
Peden said his senior ROTC cadets are learning the basics of training with their leadership roles at the camp.
"Be in charge, know what you're doing and do it. That is what the Army teaches; it's what our cadets are learning as they teach and demonstrate for these campers," Peden said.
During their sessions, campers move through a variety of exercises which help them learn the basics of teamwork and cooperation. They do so under the direction of the senior cadets who offer encouragement and, occasionally, a helping hand.
Exercises include slalom skis, a pair of one-by-four parallel boards about eight feet long with five sets of four-foot lengths of ropes attached. Groups of five campers place a foot on each parallel board, grab the rope handle and proceed to work in unison lifting each "ski" and stepping forward.
In the appropriately named "ankle angst," a larger group of campers find themselves strapped together at the ankles. Moving forward requires the group to work as one unit.
This will be the fifth year for Minden High's JROTC. Each year, about 100 cadets have been a part of the program, participating in special school functions, athletic events and holiday celebrations. Cadets also take part in competitions with other units including several in Bossier and Caddo parishes.
Peden believes he has the foundation from which he and his assistant, Army Instructor MSgt. Janell Larkin, can build an even stronger program.
"If these campers join us, they'll become a part of what we believe is going to be a superior program," he said. "We have strong senior leadership that has grown within the Minden JROTC."
Peden said the JROTC mission is to teach structure, discipline and leadership, and to motivate young people to be better citizens.
"We have an excellent JROTC program and some outstanding individuals," he said. "It has been truly a pleasure to watch these young people grow in the program and become the kind of leaders they can be."