The University of Georgia’s Air Force ROTC detachment recently hosted more than 20 Junior ROTC cadets as part of a new initiative to both develop UGA cadets’ leadership skills and give local high school students an overview of AFROTC life at UGA.
In March, Jefferson High School’s JROTC cadets and Civil Air Patrol cadets from Alliance Academy in Cumming were invited to join one of UGA’s Det 160 leadership labs in Whitehall Forest. This was the first time middle and high school students have been included in one of the UGA AFROTC’s training sessions, and it allowed UGA AFROTC cadets to practice pre-deployment skills leading a larger contingent.
“I believe the event was a major success,” said Cadet 1st Lt. Thomas N. Headley, the cadet recruiting officer with AFROTC Det 160. “The JROTC cadets were actively involved in the events, and it posed a learning opportunity for our General Military Course cadets to gain leadership experience.”
About four times each semester, Det 160 heads out to Whitehall Forest to train in a leadership sandbox. In these special leadership labs, the upperclassmen, or Professional Officer Corp cadets, train the younger General Military Course cadets in responding to situations as leaders, testing their critical thinking, adaptability and initiative. The visiting JROTC cadets were able to join in and pair up with UGA cadets to learn firsthand how the detachment trains.
“This training provides an opportunity to take risks with low consequences,” said Cadet Lt. Col. Thomas Brunner, the cadet training group commander with the detachment. “We elevate stress and pressure with many distractions because we want to avoid analysis paralysis. This is supporting our goals to be leaders of character for tomorrow’s Air Force and Space Force.”
The main goal of these labs is to prepare the cadets for field training, an annual, 17-day training event that brings about 1,000 to 1,500 AFROTC cadets together from across the nation to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Cadets usually attend field training in the summer after their sophomore year but must be nominated to attend; all 13 of the cadets nominated from UGA this year were selected to attend this summer. Upon successfully completing field training, GMC cadets are promoted to cadet officers in the Professional Officer Corp and become the ones leading the training courses while preparing for active duty upon graduating.
Because this training is such an important and hands-on part of UGA’s AFROTC program, it is also a great way to connect with Junior ROTC programs around Athens and increase high school cadets’ interest in applying to UGA. Capt. John Pyon, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Studies and Recruiting Officer with Det 160, said the first JROTC visit was a success, and he hopes to continue this program to host more junior cadets in the future.
“I hope our detachment will continue these events and create better relationships with the communities around us,” Headley said. “I believe this event showed servant leadership and mentorship to high school students around Athens.”