CALUMET - The Calumet High School JROTC Raider team did much better in a recent competition than Major Michael Farley was expecting, since it was their first effort at the event.
Farley, who is the instructor for the CHS JROTC program, said he was impressed with the efforts of the nine students he took to the Blue Devil Battalion Raider Challenge Competition at the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois May 7.
"This is the first time we've taken the Raiders on a trip to a competition," he said.
Raiders is actually a United States Army term for high school JROTC members, Farley said.
"It's a spinoff of the Army Rangers," he said. "It's recognized by the U.S. Army Cadet Command. The Rangers are about leadership and physical fitness."
Farley said although only nine students were taken to the competition, more than 20 took part in the preparatory training for it. The training, which lasted from September to May, had physical and academic components.
The physical training for the competition included calisthenics and running.
"It's just like any sports team, but we don't have a lot of competition," he said.
The physical training also included rappelling down 100 feet on Silver Mountain in Baraga County in the Ottawa National Forest.
Very few of the 26 students who took part in the rappelling actually knew what it was about, Farley said.
"Maybe out of 26, five or six had done it," he said. "It's a pretty scary thing if you've never done it before."
The CHS JROTC program has new climbing equipment paid for with $5,000 received from the Army, Farley said.
Farley said a rappelling tower is under construction in the Calumet Colosseum for the JROTC to use in the future.
On the academic side of the training, Farley said students studied map reading, compass use and how to evaluate and treat injuries.
Farley said the nine students chosen to go to the competition didn't have high expectations of success because it was their first time.
"We're kind of remote, and we don't have the opportunities to go to multiple competitions," he said. "We just trained as best we could."
Some of the other competitors had been to five or six competitions, Farley said.
The competition in Illinois consisted of the Army physical fitness, which is two minutes each of push-ups and sit-ups and a 5-mile run, Farley said. That was graded by members of the National Guard, and took place at 5:30 a.m.
"Our kids were pretty much prepared for that," he said.
The next part was a round-robin, Farley said, which consisted of rope-bridge construction, rope tying, map reading, carrying a "wounded" person on a litter, for which the team had practiced carrying three 45-pound cinder blocks.
"Our team did it in cadence," he said.
The purpose of one of the competitions was a mystery to himself and the students, Farley said. It consisted of hiding behind a barrier, then running out and grabbing a baseball and rolling it into a tub set on its side on the ground. The team did well in that competition.
"Our first three kids rolled it right in," he said.
After a lunch break, Farley said the teams went on a 10-kilometer run, which wasn't easy, mostly because of the hot, humid weather.
"That was a real challenge for our kids," he said. "About halfway through the course, they were wishing for the cool weather (of Calumet)."
Farley said the team went to the competition really just for the experience but they finished in second place.
"We were definitely surprised," he said. "It was a lot of fun. They learned a lot."
Because the experience was so positive, Farley said he would like to make the Blue Devil Battalion Raider Challenge Competition a regular part of the Calumet High School JROTC curriculum, and next year he'd like to take two teams.
The best thing the team members learned from the competition was confidence in their abilities, Farley said.
"I think they were very confident young men and women," he said.