Student cadets in the Navy Junior ROTC program at West Lincoln High School went on two very different trips over their spring break.
One group of 15 students spent their week training at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, while 11 others explored and toured Norfolkâ€™s naval facilities.
â€œIt was way more relaxed than Little Creek,â€ said junior Miranda Payseur of the sightseeing trip to Norfolk.
Throughout the week students visited the aircraft carrier the USS Enterprise.
â€œI was amazed how clean they kept it;â€ said 11th-grader Rebecca Porter. â€œIt was big.â€
In addition to the Enterprise, the group also paid a visit to the USS Wisconsin ship and even the Navyâ€™s special operations unit, which was one of the highlights of the experience, according to junior David Branton.
â€œWe got to see a lot of stuff people were not allowed to see,â€ Branton said. â€œWe would go into rooms, and they said we canâ€™t take pictures.â€
Although just high school students, the kids got a taste of life on the water at a ship simulator.
On the simulator, the students swayed and moved just like they would on a real boat.
â€œIt was like a big-old video game,â€ said freshman Jennifer Nato. â€œIt was cool.â€
For most, the best thing was seeing the landing air cushions, which, when inflated, move watercrafts up to 98 knots.
With all their sightseeing, the students still had some free moments for shopping and relaxation.
â€œWe learn more on these trips and get to experience more stuff,â€ said Branton.
While one West Lincoln group was learning about the world of the Navy, the other group got a real taste of everyday naval life at the Little Creek base.
Instead of the bachelorâ€™s quarters that the other group stayed at, the 15 students spent their week in military barracks getting up at 4:30 in the morning each day.
â€œIt was rough,â€ said 11th-grader Carolyn Costner. â€œAt first I didnâ€™t expect it to be as rough as it was.â€
Freshman Daniel Kirby said he only got two hours of sleep each night.
â€œSleep is overrated,â€ he said.
Their routine included morning physical training, then breakfast and then off to daily training.
Some of the things the students learned included the steps taken to execute a wind and water attack.
The students also got a chance to repel down a 50-foot building.
â€œIt was very intimidating, but once you got up there it was okay,â€ freshman Emily Stephens said.
When the opportunity to go through a simulated gas chamber came up, the other participating ROTC unit from West Virginia backed down, but the students from West Lincoln stepped up to the challenge.
â€œThey asked us if we wanted to run through the gas chamber and everybody from West Lincoln did,â€ said junior Wesley Owens.
For those interested in going into the military, the week was a good test of whatâ€™s to come. Students who have other post-high school plans also felt the experience was well worth it.
â€œI just like doing it,â€ said ninth-grader Erika Angle.
For the seniors, it was one of the last trips the group will take in their JROTC careers. The class of 2007 is the first group of kids that will have all four years of the program.
â€œIt gives you a chance to bond with the younger kids,â€ said senior Tracey Faulks.
Senior Will Scronce knows these trips will give him a leg up when he goes into the Navy in the fall.
â€œIt gave me a little more confidence going to Little Creek,â€ he said. â€œIt showed me a little more of what to expect.â€
With graduation on the horizon, senior Thomas Grigg looks back and values his JROTC adventures.
â€œInstead of seeing it on a video in a classroom, you get to experience it firsthand,â€ he said.
by Mary Williams