MICHIGAN CITY — They learned how to build bridges with less than obvious materials, rappel down cliffs and negotiate along high wire obstacles.

They were the Michigan City High School (MCHS) Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (MCJROTC), and this was all part of the leadership camp conducted at the St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin, from June 3 through 7.

“The objective of the camp was to place cadets into leadership positions using adventure-type scenarios, and see if they could provide the purpose, direction, and motivation for their group to accomplish the mission,” said Senior Marine Instructor Maj. Tom McGrath. “It was great to see how many of our cadets matured in obtaining the confidence that they could be in charge and obtain effective results. “

The camp involved various adventure skills like rappelling, shooting, swimming, canoeing, along with negotiating low-level and high wire obstacles. Additionally, cadets were placed into problem-solving activities such as building a floatable raft and constructing a short walking bridge using minimal and seemingly unrelatable equipment. The camp was executed at no cost to MCHS or the cadets. It was completely funded by the Marine Corps.

“Our cadets really put forth much effort on all of the activities that were provided to them,” said Master Sgt. Jeff Benak, the Marine instructor. “Besides the leadership skills developed, the cadets really showed much camaraderie and teamwork.”

Upon returning to Michigan City, the cadets made the transition to community service, as they supported the MCHS graduation on June 9. The MCHS JROTC will be participating in numerous community activities throughout the summer, to include the Michigan City Kiddie Parade on June 22, the Michigan City Summer Festival Parade on June 29, and the La Porte Independence Day parade on July 4. They will also have selected cadets attend the National Drill Camp at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, from July 7 to 13, and the MCJROTC Senior Leadership Camp at the Outdoor Odyssey Camp in Boswell, Pennsylvania, from July 21 to 27. Those camps also are done at no cost to MCHS or the cadets.

This will be the first year the MCJROTC has funded the drill camp. McGrath said he is hoping the camp will provide insights as to being successful at the national competition level. MCHS has qualified the last two years for the Marine National Championship Meet.

“Our goal is to not only qualify, but to win that meet,” McGrath said.

Despite losing many seniors from the 2018-19 team, McGrath is optimistic that the younger cadets will be able to step up and perform at the level required to compete at a national championship meet. Drill practices will be held throughout the summer.


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