This is no dream vacation.
The wake up call at 0500 — that’s 5 a.m. civilian time — along with the strict discipline, physical demands and room and uniform inspection keeps the Junior ROTC leadership training camp from making the “top 10 things I want to do this summer” for most teens.
This week, though, some 155 Junior ROTC cadets from at least 30 different Texas high schools are at the Howard Payne University campus, having a good time doing all those things, and, say their instructors, becoming better leaders and citizens in the process.
“These cadets come here for advanced subject matter, which is a little more challenging,” said Col. Bill Pailes, ROTC instructor at Corsicana, who for the fifth year has brought his students to the Brownwood camp.
A few of the students will be juniors, and first-year ROTC veterans, but the majority will be seniors with two years of ROTC training behind them, Pailes said.
“The most important thing I can say about it, is everyone is a volunteer. No one is forced to be here and everyone here knows what they’re in for, but they choose to come and go through five days of very challenging exercises,” Pailes said.
“They come because they want to and because they each want to be a better person. They realize this helps them become better citizens.
“That’s inspiring, I think.”
Though the practices, standards and uniforms of high school ROTC programs reflect a strong military influence, the programs are “not military.”
“There’s never any pressure for our cadets to join the military or become military,” Pailes said. “Junior ROTC is a citizenship program. We’re building better citizens, better leaders, better Americans. If a cadet wants to join the military after high school, we can assist, but the majority of the students in our programs are college bound.”
Leadership training, in which this camp specializes, involves mental and physical activities, team-building and problem-solving exercises.
“We cover a wide range of valuable and relevant information,” Pailes said. “We go over the quality of a leader, leadership dos and don’ts and the concept of servitude leadership, which is a Christian concept that applies.”
In today’s youth cultures where there tends to be less physical exercise and many social ideas are lax, there is a significant place for such programs as Junior ROTC, Pailes explained. Ideals, goal-setting, learning about the American heritage and government are all part of the curriculum.
“What we find is there are students who welcome the structure, who need this kind of environment,” he said.
The five-day camp concludes today with a military style Pass and Review. The final ceremonies are set for 11:30 a.m. on the parade grounds on the HPU campus.
“This is an outstanding camp,” Pailes said, “and a lot of the success, I think comes from the dedication and consistency through the years. Howard Payne is just an outstanding environment. The staff and administration are great hosts, we’re very fortunate to be able to come back each year.”