Last week, the Robertson County School Board approved a proposed Junior ROTC Raider training facility at the campus of Springfield High School.
The new facility will allow cadets in the local JROTC a place to train as they compete in Raider athletic competitions.
Operating in more than 1,700 public and private schools across the country, the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) serves as one of the largest character development programs for youth in the world. Cadets that take part participate in a variety of classes that focus on study skills, military drills, and physical fitness, among other things.
Springfield Athletics Director Dustin Wilson presented the proposal before the school board, which he stressed will be a benefit to students from all across the county.
“I don’t ever want any of our kids to go somewhere and be at a disadvantage,” Wilson said. “I think it’s an incredible benefit to us, our campus, and Robertson County. This is a program that buses drop off kids every day, and kids come to train from every one of our schools within the county.”
According to Wilson the proposed site for the course would be a large field and wooded area directly west of Springfield’s softball and baseball fields. The area would contain a multi-purpose training facility with 3-4 obstacle courses.
Following Wilson, Major Dale Lightfoot provided details of the course and what it would consist of.
Lightfoot serves as the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor (SASI) of the Air Force JROTC at Springfield High School. In this role, he leads operations and evaluates performance in both academics and leadership for cadets from all five high schools in Robertson County. He says that their JROTC has been at a disadvantage without a training course of their own and hopes to level the playing field as they travel for competitions.
“We go all across the state of Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky, at these athletic competitions. We show up and all of these other schools have facilities that we want to propose to you all because we want to level that playing field,” Lightfoot said. “But not only that, I want to bring other schools and other students to our county to see what we offer and give us a little bit of a homefield advantage if you will.”
At least to six different obstacles are proposed to be built on the course. It will include up to a one-mile trail carved out through the woods for cross country rescue, which involves cadets scaling an 8-foot wall with rucks, low-crawling through a mud-pit, and an arduous run through a wooded trail ending with a low-crawl.
A rope climb will require cadets to climb up at least 15 feet to ring a bell. Cadets will navigate the weaver obstacle primarily by weaving over and under cross bars and safely lowering themselves once they reach the top.
The training course will also include a wall obstacle, monkey bar station, tire obstacle, and a one-rope bridge, among several others.
According to Lightfoot, each obstacle will strengthen each cadet mentally and physically, requiring leadership, followership, teamwork, communication, and physical fitness among each member. He also stressed that each course will be supervised to ensure the cadet’s safety.
“When somebody comes to our place to work out or even if it’s our cadets, they sign a waiver saying that you are physically fit, you been working out and you understand there’s a little bit of accepted risk, like there is with any sport.”
The facility also has the support of other sports teams at Springfield. Lightfoot approached every head coach at the school and pitched to them the idea of their teams utilizing the courses for training as well. All of them expressed interest and were fully on board with the project.
Additionally, Lightfoot noted that he already has several parents that are on board and are willing to donate supplies, equipment, and the time and energy to build the course. Because of this the JROTC will not be asking for any money from the school board or the county to fund it.
“We’ve been out there in the military, we’ve been to all of these competitions, and we’ve seen what they are,” Lightfoot said. “We know how to make them safe, and we’re going to build them safe. If there’s something that is not, then we won’t let it happen.”
Lightfoot also points out that the construction of a new training facility has been five years in the making. Although the JROTC started a few years ago with only four or five cadets, he says they now have over 30 cadets that are competing, with at least two teams at every competition site they travel to and are slowly improving at each competition.
“This is a group of ladies and gentlemen that not only present colors, but they do so much more,” Director of Schools Chris Causey said. “When you looked at some of our Veteran’s Day ceremonies and different things, they are truly the best high school ROTC program in the nation. We used to say in the state, but I think they’ve proved it time and time again they’re the best program in the nation.”