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High Adventure Learning on the River

posted Sep 15, 2016, 10:57 AM by William Hrinko
2016 Youngstown ARS Composite Squadron Whitewater Rafting
2016 Youngstown ARS Composite Squadron Whitewater Rafting
The squadron successfully completed its third annual Whitewater Rafting Leadership Lab on 31 July 2016! This activity was designed to put every principle taught in CAP's leadership curriculum into play during one continuous, exciting muli-hour activity. In terms of leadership, the trip greatly strengthened skills in communication, teamwork, leadership, followership, problem solving, critical thinking, the decision making process, personal dynamics, and much more. Each cadet, and even senior members, also got a huge boost in self confidence. Leadership wasn't the only thing practiced though. Physical fitness definitely came into play as well as Aerospace Education. Similar to air, water reacts the same way in teaching the cadets about fluid dynamics. Seeing what is happening first-hand with their paddles acting much the same as a propeller, aileron, flap, and rudder all rolled into one to guide their rafts down the river.

After an early morning drive through the misty mountains to Ohiopyle State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, the squadron members received an in-depth safety briefing for the day before hitting the Lower Youghiogheny River. Our squadron members divided into three rafts with a cadet in charge of each boat - leading their boat members and calling commands. There were storms the previous two days so the water was flowing great and a mist hung over the river the majority of the day. The water levels were the highest and fastest our squadron has run: 2.6 feet at the river gage and 1400 cubic feet per second of water discharge. This allowed for a fast pace and exciting thrills with even fewer rocks to worry about getting stuck on. Quickly the teams learned to refine their communications so that everyone in the boats understood their roles and what each command meant. Before long, they were running each rapid skillfully, threading tight passages throughout massive boulders and submerged obstacles.

We set a unit record for out-of-boat experiences, but they remain some of the best teachers in teamwork. Each boat worked quickly in conjunction with the river guides to get each swimmer back into their boats - building trust between teammates. The first swimmer of the day was our Cadet Commander C/1st Lt Kanning at Cucumber Rapid. Lt Col Hrinko even went for his first involuntary swim (along with his whole boat) at Double Hydraulics Rapid. That's what happens when you say you've never once fell out of the boat 15 minutes earlier! We even had an instance of transferring the entire crew of a raft into another raft (except Lt Holk who got washed down to the next pool of calmer water) before their boat capsized. All nine remaining squadron members worked together to get the remaining raft freed from a pinning rock and escape downstream. Teamwork in action! There was also time to relax and jump off of boulders into deep sections of the river. Since we got done earlier than expected, we then ventured into Ohiopyle to take in the sights, have a great pizza lunch, and top it all off with ice cream before the two and a half hour drive home. Everyone had a great time and learned a lot!

Participating were Lt Col Hrinko, Capt Beatty, Capt Hrinko, 2d Lt H. Holk, 2d Lt W. Holk, SM Beatty, C/1st Lt Kanning, C/2d Lt Lewis, C/SMSgt Holk, C/MSgt Boyd, C/MSgt Fabian, C/MSgt Mackall, C/Amn Foust, C/Amn Metz, and C/AB Wells. Thank you to all that made it happen! All on-river photos by our great river outfitter for the trip, Ohiopyle Tading Post.

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