MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala --
Air Force Junior ROTC cadets from Georgia, Texas and Florida competed in the 2023 Orienteering USA Junior Nationals and Navigator Cup at the F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia, Jan. 15, 2023.
This is the first time AFJROTC has competed in the Georgia National Cup since 2018 and as such it served as the AFJROTC Orienteering National Championships.
“This course is probably one of the toughest I’ve ever been on,” said Cadet Trinity Bryce. “I’m not use to the contours … a lot of up and downs.”
Bryce is a senior at West Nassau High School, Callahan, Florida. Accompanied by their instructors, who are retired Air Force officers and senior noncommissioned officers, cadets from Etowah High School, Woodstock, Georgia, and Waller High School, Waller, Texas, also participated.
Etowah High School AFJROTC Unit GA-958 was first place among Air Force teams and finished fifth among the nine service JROTC teams that competed.
The competition was sponsored by OrienteeringUSA the national governing body of all orienteering activities in the United States and a member nation of the International Orienteering Federation. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, volunteer-run organization.
Orienteering entails using a map and compass to navigate to and past a series of control points, while being timed, and in often diverse and unfamiliar terrain. Contestants are provided a specially prepared topographical map, bring their compass, and then move at speed though nature and the countryside to finish a course. The path is not marked, and each participant determines the best route to reach the objectives and complete the course safely while in the quickest time possible. Courses have varying lengths and difficulty.
“One of the big things is, besides getting them outside, is it builds character,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Edward Spiezio, aerospace science instructor, West Nassau High School AFJROTC Unit FL-955. “This is because it’s an individual sport. You have to learn it, you have to study at it, and if you don’t you are going to fail at it.”
Some have compared orienteering to cross country running mixed with hiking, all the while having to also finish a crossword puzzle. It is a sport that exercises the mind and body, but those are not the only reasons AFJROTC instructors like Spiezio encourage their cadets to check out orienteering.
“I kind of fell in love with the sport when I first tried it, because it does take a lot out of you physically and mentally,” said Brice. “It’s encouraging especially when you see growth. When you’re learning the right things to do, and it’s really just strengthened me in a lot of ways.”