Freshman JROTC cadet sacrifices personal run-time to assist downed ‘orienteer’

  • Published
  • By Christian P. Hodge, Headquarters AFJROTC Public Affairs

An Air Force Junior ROTC cadet surrendered the chance for a personal achievement to provide assistance to another young competitor at the 2023 Orienteering USA Junior Nationals and Navigator Cup at the F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, GA, Jan. 15. 

Orienteering is the sport of navigation using only a map and a compass to navigate land through unfamiliar terrain and the natural obstacles therein through a series of checkpoints during a timed, or untimed, run.

However, as with any outdoors activity there are potential perils.

“When I was going to Point 6, I was running up the mountain and I heard just a really bad scream,” said Cadet Payton Hill, Etowah Highschool AFJROTC GA-958, of Woodstock, GA.

According to Retired Lt. Col. Steve Bergey, Etowah Highschool AFJROTC GA-958 senior aerospace science instructor, Cadet Hill was running his course as one of four team members on their unit’s interscholastic intermediate division team. Which is a fancy way of saying the freshmen team. He was between checkpoints, running up a mountain to his next control, when he heard a loud scream from behind him. Expecting someone just got hurt, he ran back in the direction of the scream until he found a downed orienteer of about the same age. The downed orienteer tripped and fell, appeared to have a fractured leg and was immobile. Instead of continuing on with his own race, Cadet Hill stayed with the downed orienteer until help arrived.

This good deed was made even more special by the fact it was his first official orienteering competition.

“There wasn’t too much blood, but I wanted to see if he was okay. He couldn’t put any pressure on it and he was almost crying. I went to check his leg and could see that it was broken,” he said. “His leg was supposed to look like this (pointing his two index fingers together in a straight line), but his knee, it almost looked like this (he said pointing one figure upward).

Hill personally felt that particular checkpoint was the toughest of the course.

“Point 6 was by far the most difficult. It was up a really steep hill, but the real problem with it was there was a lot of leaves so it made things pretty slippery,” he said. “I actually fell once and the only reason I didn’t hurt myself is because I fell on a tree. So I caught myself.”

“This took approximately 15 minutes off of Cadet Hill's time, affecting the overall team's time as a 15 minute improvement in his own time would have led him to place for our team,” said Bergey. “We still had a good day, finishing 3rd overall in the nation in that category. We're proud of Cadet Hill.” For more information on this unique, international outdoor sport, go to OrienteeringUSA – ‘the national governing body of all orienteering activities in the United States and is a member nation of the International Orienteering Federation.’