Junior ROTC students tackle survival skills at mini boot camp

MANASSAS — While many of their classmates are spending the spring break holiday vacationing in Florida or becoming a couch potato in front of their TV sets, 40 members of the Osbourn Park High School Navy Jr. ROTC are going through a rigid and tough mini boot camp in the wilderness at Fort A.P. Hill.

At 6 a.m., this group was staring at a tough road ahead: push-ups, marching drills, running the obstacle course, jogging for a mile and half, rappelling down a 40-foot tower, learning on-the-spot wilderness survival and cleaning bathrooms.

Sixteen hours later, they gave their assessment: They were loving every minute of it.

“Believe it or not, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t like all that is good about boot camp,” said Ben Van Buren, an 11th-grader at Manassas Park High School, who is enrolled at the Jr. ROTC program at Osbourn Park.

“This is where we learn all about leadership — not just in the military but in all aspects of life. This is my fourth camp and the second with Osbourn Park and I’ve found camp to be a lot of fun, a place where you can make a lot of great new friends,” Van Buren said.

In addition to Osbourn Park and Manassas Park, the camp has Junior ROTC students from Potomac High in the county, and from schools in Culpeper and Herndon. All are under the command of Cadet Cmdr. Laura Hannum of Osbourn Park, who plans to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

The campers are put pretty much through the same training that regular military personnel do in basic training.

“This is an opportunity for them to experience military life and whether they might want to continue it as a career after graduation,” said Retired Navy Capt. James Porter, who heads up the Junior ROTC program at Osbourn Park and has organized the mini-boot camp for the past nine years.

Volunteer instructors from the Manassas National Guard set up training courses at the site.

Staff Sgt. Douglas Buntz had the attention of the cadets an entire afternoon as he conducted a session on survival should someone get lost.

He explained how to set up an emergency shelter, how to find water and how to start a fire.

Another Manassas National Guardsman, Christopher Brock, gave instructions on map and compass reading while others instructed on night vision assisted by Osbourn Park instructors Russell Seward and Warner Mayden. Many of the National Guardsmen are former students of Porter.

The cadets were able to put their training into use on the final night of the camp when they were spread out after dark around the large training base and have to find their way back to their barracks.

“That’s what I enjoyed most about my past two camps, getting on all the dark makeup like a real combat soldier. Also, it involves a lot of teamwork. No one wants to admit they became lost,” said Jerry Keys, a senior at Osbourn Park.

The campers pay $70 for the camp which covers their food and transportation. Use of A.P. Hill, located south of Fredericksburg, is free and the instructors volunteer their time.

Porter said many of his former ROTC students come back to visit.

“They tell me and my students that the ROTC program played a major role in helping them achieve whatever they sought in life, both personally and professionally. That makes me feel real good.”

Staff writer Bennie Scarton Jr. can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 125.

Similar Posts