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Wednesday, March 29, 2000

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Schofield Barracks' East Range is alive with activity at
the JROTC Spring Camp obstacle courses. At the rope
bridge,students from Kamehameha and Kailua high
schools form a team that set the fastest time yesterday.

JROTC: For the drill of it

Cadets take control of
their futures in the annual
training camp

By Gregg K. Kakesako


n your belly!" barks 25th Infantry Division drill sergeant Pvt. Jomar Sahagon.

"Show us that motivation."

But at that point, that may be the last thing Waianae High School sophomore Chanel Peters wanted to show yesterday as she inched on her belly through sand and mud, her uniform soaked by a steady morning Wahiawa drizzle at Schofield Barracks' East Range.

Peters, 16, is one of more than 1,000 island students -- Junior ROTC cadets -- who have given up television, the beach and the mall this spring break to attend the annual encampment at Schofield Barracks.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Britnee Boeder, 14, of Waimea, Kauai, crawls
under barbed wire in the mud.

Since Saturday, high school cadets outfitted in camouflage fatigues have tackled the Army's confidence course, complete with 20 obstacles including a 50-foot ladder; rappelled from a 50-foot tower; navigated using a compass; and crossed an 82-foot-wide ditch using just a rope.

The cadets from 37 island schools skipped a week's vacation from the classroom and books to get a taste of military life, a chance to develop friendships and a peek into what it takes to make the military a career.

Army JROTC officials said the training helps to build the students' confidence and teaches them to work as a team.

Army Master Sgt. Patrick Akuna said that in the past, 90 percent of Waianae High School's cadets have joined the military or gone to college.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Ezekiel Gauthier is an eighth-grader at
Waianae and a mud soldier.

"That's about 20 kids a year," said Akuna, a 23-year Army veteran. "Many will go away for three or four years and then come home. Others will find that they like the military and make it a career."

Of the 146 students in Waianae's program, Akuna was allowed to bring 50 to Schofield this year.

From that group of 50, 20 positions were set aside for eighth graders, said Akuna, who has been shepherding Waianae youths through the school's JROTC program for the past 13 years, "to give them a feel of what it will be like."

Hawaii's JROTC program -- considered one of the largest in the country -- is open to students grades nine through twelve.

Over the years, Akuna has seen more girls, such as Peters, enter the program.

Besides more females in the Waianae unit, Akuna said, youth today have "more initiative and more enthusiasm. There's a lot of high spirit."

Peters' taste of military life for the past years seems to steer her toward the Air Force and a career in medicine.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
At the JROTC Spring Camp at Schofield Barracks,
it takes teamwork to get a drink during the obstacle
course. Randol Franco pours for Mark Medina
as Kaikoa Lacson waits his turn.

"I think I would like to try to become a medic," said Peters, who also spends her spare time dancing the hula with Na'opio O Waianae.

"If I wasn't here this week, I would probably be sitting at home doing nothing."

Waimea High School sophomore Autumn Faildo, her face caked with mud, said her spring break would have probably been spent "watching the TV in my home" in Kekaha.

It's too soon for her to focus on life after high school, but Faildo said it might be in the area of music, perhaps being a high school band teacher.

"But I might join the Army or the Air Force," said Faildo, who acknowledges that her father's full-time job with the Hawaii Air National Guard on Kauai might influence her final decision.

Kahuku High School sophomore Adam Latronic said he joined only because "a lot of my friends did, but it has made me a better citizen. It really shaped me up."

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Walter Holt comes down the 50-foot Confidence Tower.
He had started with a rope climb up the tower, then a
walk across an open frame, a climb up a widely spaced
wooden frame, then over the top before coming down.

Kamehameha Schools sophomore Shaun Palakiko said the chance to lead enticed him.

"I like command," said Palakiko, who also participates in water polo, paddling and the band at the Kapalama Heights campus.

Kamehameha Schools, which established the first JROTC unit in Hawaii in 1916, is the only program with a mandatory two-year requirement for male students. Two years later Punahou started its unit. McKinley High School has the oldest public school JROTC unit -- it was set up in 1921, followed by Roosevelt in 1938.

More than 4,200 public-school students at 33 schools are enrolled in the program.

Another 1,200 private-school students participate in the program at Damien, Punahou, St. Louis, Kamehameha and St. Joseph High School on the Big Island. Students get credit for participating.

The salaries of the 61 instructors -- all of whom are retired officers or noncommissioned officers -- are shared by the military and the Department of Education.

An awards and closing ceremony will take place at Schofield Barrack's "Tent City" at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

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