Special to the Register & Bee

Teenage Civil Air Patrol cadets from Danville and Pittsylvania County recently returned from living at Fort Pickett for Encampment, a week of military-style activities that challenged them mentally and physically.

Fort Pickett is a military base in Nottoway County.

Cadets gave up cellphones, junk food and other distractions in exchange to learn about leadership skills, aerospace knowledge and careers, physical fitness and character.

A week of proper sleep and healthy food powered them through activities like exercising each morning, aerospace study, tackling a leadership reaction course — an obstacle course where they overcame challenges as a team — and super-organizing their personal items “military style.”

“We had to organize our footlockers and wall lockers exactly like a picture they showed us,” cadet Grace Hopper said. “We had to make our beds precisely, with hospital corners where a ruler can go in it, with 6 inches of the sheet pulled back 1 inch from the top of the bed to the folded part of the sheet.”

In leadership reaction course, the cadets were organized into groups called flights.

“Our flight was presented with an obstacle to overcome together,” cadet Kaleigh Morris said. “We had to cross murky water as a team without falling into the water. We had to figure it out and accomplish this together as one unit.”

Cadet Rorer Payne has attended Encampment before, and is looking forward to Encampment 2020.

“My favorite part of Encampment 2019 was getting to know so many amazing people,” Payne said.

Hopper made new friends as well.

“My whole flight got really close during the week, completing hard tasks and pushing through together as a team,” Hopper said. “I grew in leadership, pushing through challenges, never giving up, and focusing my self-discipline.”

Cadets also learned how to look sharp. Morris said after personal items were organized in detail, the way they wore them had to be precise.

“They grade you on whether or not your boots are shined, your sleeves are rolled properly and even, if your hair is neat, boots [and] blouses correctly worn, and if your insignia is even,” Morris said.

Encampment hosts about 400 cadets per year, learning to solve problems as a team.

The Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 57,000 members nationwide.

Contact the Danville squadron of Civil Air Patrol at (434) 549-3969.

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