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CASTINE, Maine – Americans are increasing awareness of childhood health issues: Michelle Obama started her “Let’s Move” campaign, the National Football League has its “Play 60” campaign, and even the latest season of the popular weight-loss show, The Biggest Loser, challenged Americans to face the causes of childhood health problems.
At Maine Maritime Academy (MMA), the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, or NROTC, recently promoted physical fitness and healthy living to local youths by hosting its annual physical training challenge for Junior ROTC and Sea Cadet students from Maine and New England high schools, March 22 – 24.
The event featured a series of physically and mentally demanding challenges including a physical fitness test, a rock-climbing wall exercise, and team building events. These events, such as group push-ups and sit-ups, not only pushed the limits of the participants’ physical endurance, but also helped build a sense of camaraderie and teamwork among the peers.
The challenge began as soon as the students arrived on campus as they were immediately removed from the comfort of their group of friends and separated into two platoons of kids they had never met before.
“The kids come here and feel pretty comfortable because they are with people they know,” said Gunnery Sgt. George Oshana, Assistant Marine Officer Instructor (AMOI) for MMA’s NROTC. “We break them up and out of their comfort zone.”
Although there is a strong military connection with the ROTC, JROTC, and Sea Cadet programs, this event was not a preparation program for military service. Instead, the event was designed to help instill some of the fundamental values these programs promote: teamwork, leadership, personal courage, and physical and mental health.
“It’s not boot camp,” said Oshana, a sixteen-year Marine Corps veteran. “It’s a straight buildup of character.”
Along with the physical challenges, MMA’s NROTC midshipmen, who served as mentors throughout the challenge, also taught the kids about making healthy dietary choices. During lunchtime, the kids were eager to put this new knowledge in to use – and to call-out those who made their way to the dessert line.
As impressive, or more, than the students’ attentiveness and eagerness to learn was the substantial increase in the number of participants at this year’s event. According to Hugh Porter, Associate Director of Admissions at MMA, 137 high school students attended the challenge which is three-times more than attended last year.
“[The high number of participants] is due largely to cadets and their commanding officers and instructors passing along their very positive experiences to their associates in this field,” said Porter. “We couldn't offer this fine programming without the support of NROTC staff and Midshipmen. They make this a first class, inspiring event.”
For more information on Maine Maritime Academy’s NROTC program, please visit their website at http://www.mainemaritime.edu/careers/rotc-options.
Maine Maritime Academy is a co-educational, public college on the coast of Maine offering fifteen degree programs in engineering, management, science and transportation. For more information, visit mainemaritime.edu