Camdenton R-III JROTC competes in first national competition

Mitch Prentice
Lake Sun Leader
Camdenton R-III JROTC members stand ready for competition in Georgia.

Less than two years have passed since the creation of the JROTC program at Camdenton R-III and the group has already made a name for itself at national competition. 

First Sergeant David Dowell has been working with the JROTC program since 2019 and was excited to finally lead his cadets to their first Raider Nationals competition in Georgia. At this point in the school year, JROTC programs would normally be heading to Georgia for their final competition of the year. However, because many events were canceled due to COVID, this served Camdenton’s first Raider Nationals opportunity.

Raider Nationals consists of a number of competitions surrounding all branches of the military. These events range from building a rope bridge to cross a river, to a brutal gauntlet obstacle course, to a 5k run up and down a mountain and more. The event is hosted to showcase the training JROTC programs across the county have completed throughout the year.

Camdenton’s JROTC program brought home two fifth place trophies in the rope bridge competition and physical team test (PTT). Overall, the team placed sixth nationally against over 30 programs. This was the group’s first Raider competition ever, leading to a great sense of pride from Dowell for their high success with little experience. 

Cadet Captain and Camdenton student Kainoah Diaz-Dunham took part in both the rope bridge and PTT competitions. He recalled the difficulty of the competition and the spectacle of finally putting all of their training to use. He says the moment didn’t feel real until he was waist deep in the rolling waters of the river. Diaz-Dunham says he thought the entire experience was exhilarating and is ready for what comes next. 

Cadet Captain and Camdenton student Gabriella Vaupel played a major role in the rope bridge challenge, as Dowell says they couldn’t have done it without her extensive knowledge of knots. She says the competition felt much different than the training experiences they had in Camdenton, but was thrilled with the outcome of their work.

“It stopped being a competition and became more of a team building moment once we all came together,” Vaupel said. 

Many of the events in the Raider Nationals event have to be simulated in local training to ready the cadets. In Camdenton, there isn’t a river to cross or a mountain to climb, so Dowell says many training scenarios are mimicked to the best of the ability. This includes simulating the rope bridge challenge in the forest or pushing the cadet’s cardio training through the many hills in the surrounding area to simulate the elevation of the Georgia mountains. 

Cadet major and Camdenton student Joseph Fisher took part in the Gauntlet course, which saw him lead the team through a number of obstacles including climbing an 8ft wall and crawling through sewage drains. Running with full equipment on and carrying 30-40 pounds of weight at a time, Fisher says he learned quickly that the team would have to truly want to win the competition more than other teams to come out on top. 

“We accomplished a lot on our first try,” Fisher said. “You learn a lot about the importance of wanting to succeed.” 

Dowell says the program’s next competition is still up in the air, but he hopes to get them involved again soon. He says the program will sign up for as many competitions as they can to continue growing and gaining experience.