Recently, 16 Alvarado High School students went to summer camp.

However, the camp they went to didn’t have the usual camp activities like swimming in lakes and campfires; instead, they repelled, orienteered and went through a number of courses.

The courses, including a leadership reaction course and an obstacle course, were all part of the Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge at Camp Bullis, a U.S. Army installation near San Antonio.

“The purpose of it is to provide a leadership experience for the cadets,” AHS’s senior Army instructor Lt. Col. Mark Spencer said, describing the camp as “all team-oriented.”

Perhaps the best example of the emphasis on teamwork is in the leadership reaction course where the cadets had to work together, both physically and mentally, to find paths through, over and under obstacles.

An example of one of these would be to imagine two apparently parallel rails spanning a hole in the floor, Spencer told. The cadets, instructed to find a way across, were given a certain number of planks of varying lengths to accomplish the task, only discovering after they’ve begun that the two rails only appear to be parallel; in fact, the gap between them widens as they approach the opposite side.

Thus, the students have to find ways to overcome the obstacle and successfully get their entire group and the materials they used across.

The students did not have the luxury of working with cadets they already knew.

The school’s 16 cadets that traveled to the camp, Shelby Baker, Jonathan Batte, David Cathey, Kevin Hohertz, Thomas King, Michael Land, Kenneth Milburn, Jake Rodriguez, Charonnay Arguijo, Ashley Brown, Kelly Brown, Billie Johnson, Shaina Jones, Morgan Panyasawat, Joslynn Penello and Shea Phariss, were divided among the camp’s four companies of three platoons each, Spencer said, noting that three of the four company commanders at the camp were AHS cadets.

This achievement can be contextualized better by noting that AHS was just one of 18 schools at the camp, including 10 schools from Fort Worth, added Spencer, who also served as the public affairs officer for the session.

Last year, the school’s cadets traveled to Fort Sill near Lawton, Okla., for the JCLC, Spencer said. While the program’s leaders would have preferred to return to Fort Sill this year, they could not due to a lack of available space, Spencer explained.

Whether it was the fact that all the students were wearing woodland camouflage battle dress uniforms or that they formed up in companies, it is obvious that the vast majority of the camp did not resemble a typical summer camp.

However, one element does: the nightly volleyball competition.

“Every night, the cadets would get together and have volleyball championships,” Spencer said, noting that after all, the idea behind the camp is “leadership, having some fun and to learn.”