Feb. 8, 2011

ChalleNGe cadets complete initial “Hardcore” phase

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. — Candidates for the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Program transitioned to full cadet status Jan. 27 and were recognized in a ceremony at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach after completing the two weeks of the “Hardcore” phase. During the mentally and physically rigorous first phase that determines eligibility for the full 20-week program, candidates tackled the obstacle course, rappel tower and leader reaction course at Fort A. P. Hill. After traversing 30-foot high obstacles and low crawling through the dirt, more than 120 candidates proved their mental toughness and ability to work as a team and earned a spot in the full program.

 

Candidates of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe program navigate the obstacle course at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Jan. 20. ChalleNGe candidates must complete the two-week "Hard Core" phase at Fort A.P. Hill to become cadets in the Virginia Beach-based program. The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Program is a 22-week residential program that is structured in a military-style environment to promote academics, attention to detail, time management and leadership, while promoting self esteem, confidence and pride. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The program itself is a residential program that takes 16-18 year olds that have dropped out of high school and places them in a military-style environment complete with Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors as cadre. Once in the program, they focus on academics, attention to detail, time management and leadership as well as promoting self-esteem and help them to attain their General Education Diploma. 

“The purpose of the Commonwealth ChalleNGe is to take these at-risk youth and put them through the 22 weeks of the residential program and gives them a second chance at life,” said retired Marine Col. Thomas M. Early, director of the program. “When we take these kids in, we’re getting an awful lot of kids that the schools didn’t want. They’ve dropped out of school and the program gives them another chance with a very low recidivist rate, of getting back where they came from and the problems that caused them to come here.”

At Fort A.P. Hill the candidates pushed themselves through the obstacles and scaled down the rappel tower with the help of instructors from the Blackstone-based 1st Battalion, 183d Regiment, Regional Training Institute. They also learned about teamwork while navigating the tasks of the leader reaction course, a series of scenario-based obstacles the cadets must navigate to test their leadership skills and teamwork abilities by encouraging the small groups to work together to accomplish their goals.

 

Instructors from the Virginia National Guard's Blackstone-based 183d Regiment, Regional Training Institute supervise rappelling orientation for Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe candidates Jan. 20 at Fort A.P. Hill. ChalleNGe candidates must complete the two-week "Hard Core" phase at Fort A.P. Hill to become cadets in the Virginia Beach-based program. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

“The obstacles you’re going to face out there are like life’s obstacles,” retired Master Sgt. Larry Hicks, company first sergeant, told the candidates as they faced the obstacle course. “You gotta learn how to deal with them. There are going to be big obstacles, little obstacles in your life and you have to be prepared for them. You can look to other people to help you get through and that’s what your team is there for.”

While at Fort A.P. Hill the teens also spent a week focusing on classes in military courtesies and basic drill and ceremony instruction. They also attended various classes including anger management, ethics goal setting and even attended classes focused on preparing the cadets for the Test for Adult Basic Education.

The cadets returned to Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach where they will complete the rest of the program and work toward the attainment of the G.E.D. by taking classes in math, science, language arts and social studies. Upon completion of the residential phase the graduates are placed in a year-long post-residential phase under the tutelage of trained mentors who help cadets sustain the skills they acquired during the residential phase and apply them to their everyday lives. The program requires that cadets line up a job, or go on to higher education or military service as a graduation requirement.

The ChalleNGe Program began in July 1994 and since then more than 3,000 cadets have completed the program.

After the residential phase, ChalleNGe graduates are required to complete a one-year mentorship period completed in the cadet’s community with the guidance and assistance of a screened, trained, and matched mentor.

There is no cost to the cadets for the ChalleNGe program with 75% of the funding coming from the federal government and 25% percent from Virginia.

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