By Crystal Allen
Leader’s Training Course
Using three empty trash barrels, one sheet of plywood, two 2x4s and one rope long enough to tie it all together, Cadets competing in the Junkyard Wars task have to build a raft sturdy enough to carry them to a buoy roughly 50 yards away and back within 40 minutes.
Cadets were given little instruction, forcing them to work together to come up with their own design. Split into four teams of nine members, Golf Company Cadets had different ideas, leading to some arguing and compromising during planning. Each platoon successfully made it to the point, marked by a buoy, and back but they each did it on completely different rafts.
“You have to use a lot of innovation,” Juliette Dickson said. “You really have to dig deep to make a raft out of a bunch of scraps.”
The event, known as Junkyard Wars, is one of three tasks at the Leader’s Training Course waterborne operations training. In addition to putting together a raft, Cadets are also tasked with waterproofing their personal equipment and making it float across a waterway, and learning to capsize a 300-pound Zodiac boat and then race fellow teams of Cadet along a quarter-mile water route.
None of these tasks are individual events.
“Our primary goal is to really help instill confidence and teamwork with the Cadets,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Johnson, waterborne operations non-commissioned officer in charge. “They work as a very strong collective unit.”
To successfully complete the tasks, each Cadet has to be willing to work with each other.
“I never felt scared that someone wouldn’t have my back out there,” Dickson, a Golf Company Cadet and graduate student at Howard University, said.
Teams are motivated by competing for the best time in all the events. Times for each squad and groups of cadre members who compete as well are posted from each task.
Some of Cadets have little experience and some can’t even swim. They have to rely on their life vests and other Cadets to help them overcome their fear.
“You have to believe in yourself, believe in the people you’re working with,” Golf Cadet Megan Dumas said. “Just have faith that it’s going to work out because there are a lot of people who can’t swim, and if you’re not focused and trusting then you’re probably not going to be successful.”
Waterborne operations is a part of the final stretch before the Cadets graduate from LTC. Although it the tasks were difficult, especially Junkyard Wars where some Cadets’ rafts were barely making it to each point because the items as a whole weren’t sturdy. Some platoons couldn’t fit every Cadet on the raft, leaving some to push it from behind.
However, the challenge was worth the struggle.
“Just looking back and saying ‘I accomplished something huge,’” said Dumas, a junior at the University of Michigan. “Another tally mark on my LTC adventure.”