In June 23 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
Eighteen students with Russell County High School's Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps participated in Military Aptitude and Survival Training, or MAST for short, last week at the Artemus National Guard Training Center in Barbourville, according to Senior Chief Steve Kinder.
Russell County's NJROTC was joined by fellow ROTCs from both Butler County and Paducah Tilghman for a tough week of boot camp, showing the student cadets what it's like to prepare for the armed services.
Kinder said the MAST training provided cadets training in the basic skills used in the NJRTOC program and gave them the basic ideas and resources to help them as leaders in their units once they got back to Russell County.
Students Robert Hall, Sierra Hurst, Tessa Darnell, Erica Mann, Jamie Minard, Elizabeth Smith, Max Vitori, Cody Wilson, Steven York, Nick Brown, Tyler Wooldridge, Amara Dutton, Michael Bahn, Chuck Harrell, Carlos Maldonado, Kimberly Perez, Spencer Roy and Brianna Bloyd went on the trip and came back with memories that will undoubtedly last them a lifetime.
"The main leaders put us to the test," Wooldridge said. "They taught us about physical strength, they motivated us and we showed good determination on everything we did."
Among the events the cadets participated in were repelling, pugil stick battles and early morning running and the cadets enjoyed MRE, or rationed ready to eat meals distributed by the armed forces.
"I loved the obstacle course," Mann said. "We repelled off a 40 ft. wall and ran through this little tunnel. We did a lot of climbing, too."
Mann also said eating the MREs were something she'd not soon forget as it was her first experience with the pouched food.
Dutton said she would remember the structured atmosphere and how she was able to meet new people from the other visiting companies at MAST.
"My favorite thing was probably the pugil sticks and the shooting simulator," Dutton said. "There was some incentive for winning so it made everyone try harder."
Bloyd also said she enjoyed the trip, saying the one mile run at 5 a.m. was difficult, but that it brought the group together as one. She also noted that sleeping in the barracks was another memorable event as it was the first time many of the cadets had stayed in such a structure.
Hurst, another veteran cadet who went on the trip, said her most memorable moment of the trip was being named platoon commander.
"We sang a lot of crazy cadences and marched," she said. "It was really fun. Being one of the older people you learn a lot of different leadership skills and how to follow and be led."
Hurst said the repelling wall was her favorite activity, something that many of the cadets had fear in at first.
"We learned that there is artificial fear and real fear and that we create the artificial fear in our minds and facing that fear is part of the whole experience," she said.
Bahn, a newbie to the NJROTC scene, said this was his first such trip.
"I'm thinking about going into the Marine Corps," he said. "I'm a real adrenaline junkie so I was happy I was doing the repelling wall."
Before the trip, Bahn said he did not know many of the students on the trip but after spending several days with them and sharing so many memorable moments he had many new friends.
Darnell also said she enjoyed the experience of being with her company while on such a trip.
"It was my first boot camp and was one of the best experiences of my life," she said. "I loved it and I can't wait to go back next year."
Darnell said she had to face her fears when matched against the repelling wall as she has a major fear of heights.
"But I went down it," she said. "It made me feel a lot better once I went down it. I was so proud of myself."
Kinder said he could see in a matter of three days the difference in the cadets he and Captain Bob King took on the trip to Barbourville.
"If I could do it for a week or two it would be amazing," Kinder said. "The fear of the unknown makes you gravitate to the others and become a team."
Kinder said the NJROTC, which has been at RCHS for over a decade, would have more than 80 students enrolled next school year, doubling the size of the group in just three years.
"This is exactly what I wanted to see," he said.