[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                               November 14, 2008
Training

ChalleNGe Academy cadets fill 250,000 sandbags over past 10 years

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy

Cadets in the Wisconsin National Guard ChalleNGe Academy reached the milestone of filling 250,000 sandbags, which not only fosters a sense of being good citizens, but also provides valuable support to Fort McCoy’s training mission, said Peter Blum.

Photo: ChalleNGE Academy cadets at Fort McCoy fill a sandbag, one of many used to support training needs at Fort McCoy. (Photo contributed by ChalleNGe Academy)
ChalleNGE Academy cadets at Fort McCoy fill a sandbag, one of many used to support training needs at Fort McCoy. 
(Photo contributed by ChalleNGe Academy)

Blum, the ChalleNGe Academy deputy director, said the cadets generally fill sand- bags in the early stages of their 22-week residence program at Fort McCoy.

"It’s something that’s outdoors and physical," Blum said. "We call it sandbag therapy, and it’s both a disciplinary tool and a good way to perform a needed service for the post."

Each of the 20 classes that have come through in the 10 years the program has been located at Fort McCoy typically filled more than 10,000 sandbags during each class. Blum said the cadets also have done other community-service type work, such as clearing trails, and cleaning up highways.

Barry Schroader, the installation’s supervisory range specialist, said the academy’s help filling the sandbags supports many installation training missions — mobilization and nonmobilization, alike.

"Some of the training they support is reflex firing, replacing (worn-out) sandbags on ranges, fighting positions, bunkers and target berms," he said. "We use the time they save us to help keep up with ever-changing mobilization missions and requirements."

Cadets also have performed police calls at training facilities, picked up tree branches and supported the Range Section by doing many hands-on or labor-intensive projects, he said.


"Sometimes doing community service and giving back to the community is not very glamorous. But it gives them a chance to actively help the Soldiers on Fort McCoy."

Peter Blum,
ChalleNGe Academy
Deputy Director

"We have a very good working relationship with (the academy)," Schroader said. "They call looking for things to help us and Soldiers with, and we do everything we can to find them projects that they can accomplish and help us at the same time."

Blum said community service is one of eight core components in the ChalleNGe Academy program. Each cadet must perform 40 hours of community service during their time at Fort McCoy.

"The installation has been wonderful to us," Blum said. "Sometimes doing community service and giving back to the community is not very glamorous. But it gives them a chance to actively help the Soldiers on Fort McCoy."

Many times personnel from the military units stop by to thank the cadets for filling the sandbags and telling them how it helped them accomplish their training. Blum said this gives the cadets a chance to understand the results of their efforts.

Cadets attending the ChalleNGe Academy program are between 16-years, 9-months and 18-years-old. 

They are at risk of not graduating from high school and must volunteer to attend the program.

The course at Fort McCoy includes academic training to help them get their high school equivalency or general educational diploma, Blum said. Following their residence at McCoy, they have an additional year in the program where they work with a mentor.

For more information about the ChalleNGe Academy, call (608) 269-9000 or visit the Academy’s Web site at http://www.challengeacademy.org.

 

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