UWF hosts 10th annual ROTC orienteering meet
By Josh Newby, University Communications
More than 250 local high school students gathered at the University of West Florida Feb. 12 to learn and practice teamwork and navigational skills, as well as become better citizens and students. Feb. 12 marked the university’s 10th annual ROTC orienteering meet. The day started at 8 a.m. in various classrooms on campus as students learned about the coordinates they would be plotting later that day. UWF’s own ROTC cadets were on hand to lend assistance and guide the high school students through their day.
Around 10 a.m., the event moved outside, where students were welcomed by warm temperatures, music, food and a US Army informational bus. Students bustled around the staging area, talking excitedly and waiting for their team’s turn at the day’s challenge.
The challenge for the eight-student teams would be to split up into two teams of four and find four signs spread across a four kilometer section of the nature reserve that UWF is located on. The students were given the coordinates for each, along with a map of the area. The purpose of this challenge was to promote teamwork, adherence to directions and basic directional skills.
Maj. Steve Duckworth, the college enrollment officer for UWF, was on hand to coordinate the event and make sure students were equipped to complete the challenge successfully.
“It’s great that UWF is hosting this event,” said Duckworth. “It helps out the area high schools immensely and gives the students a chance to see the university and what we’re all about.”
Students had 75 minutes to navigate the four kilometer area. Beforehand, they were given a 15-minute orientation to review the map and the various coordinates they would have to locate.
ROTC cadet Kaitlin Rayburn, a senior at UWF, was tasked with outlining the map and reiterating the challenge objectives before the students set out.
“We’ve constructed a small mock-up of the real-life terrain so that they feel comfortable with what they’re actually dealing with,” said Rayburn. “It’s a great experience being able to go from being taught to teaching.”
Kyle Johnson, a student at Tate high school, was excited to begin the challenge and confident in his and his team’s ability to finish in the top three.
“We’ve been preparing for this for three months,” said Johnson. “I’d rather try and fail than not try and succeed. But that doesn’t matter, because we’re going to win.”
As an alarm sounded, he and his team sprinted to the beginning of the course to begin the challenge.
“There’s no time to waste once you start,” said Jeremy Brown, a student at Pace high school. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing and do it well.”
In the past, area high schools would have to commute to Birmingham, Ala. for a similar experience, but now UWF volunteers its land for them.
“It’s a good turnout,” said Edward Boegle, professor of Military Science at UWF. “It’s a great event, because the students can easily access the campus, and we get great exposure. I’d say it’s a win-win for all.”
Cmdr. John Victors, the leader of the Pace high school team, had nothing but good things to say about the day, the event and his team’s chances.
“We’ve got a great bunch of cadets,” said Victors. “As much as anything, it’s a great team-building and citizen-improvement exercise. The campus is great for hosting this and they’ve always done a great job. I look forward to coming back next time.”