YORK, PA -- More than 70 students marched in formation and yelled cadences in the parking lots and hallways of Dallastown Area High School Wednesday during the sixth annual Marine Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Future Leaders Camp.

The week-long camp is designed for students in fourth through eighth grades and is run by high school students in the JROTC program at Dallastown, according to Lt. Col. Joseph Innerst, a JROTC instructor at the school.

Students attending the camp - called campers - are taught leadership skills, physical training, swimming, land navigation, military drill commands, and receive an introduction to the JROTC program.

Campers are led by high school students in JROTC - called cadets - through exercises and drill commands.

"That's the beauty of it," Innerst said. "The cadets get to lead the campers and teach the classes."

Shannon Ludlow is in 11th grade and serves as the public affairs officer for the JROTC program. In addition, she also is a cadet at the camp.

"It's amazing how the kids absorb the information," Ludlow said. She added that, while the purpose of the camp is to teach all students leadership, the main goal is to "have a lot of fun."

Blake Culp-Henise, 12, is in eighth grade at Dallastown Area Middle School and said this is his third year attending the camp. "I'm thinking about going into the military, and I want to be fit," Culp-Henise said. He plans to join the JROTC program when he enters high school.

Fourteen-year-old Emily Corwin will enter Dallastown High School in August and said attending the camp isn't just teaching her skills, such as survival tips while swimming, it's also easing her nerves about the transition into the new school.

Dallastown Area High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet sergeants Zach Markey and Austen Kruhm lead squads of JROTC summer campers in
Dallastown Area High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet sergeants Zach Markey and Austen Kruhm lead squads of JROTC summer campers in physical training stretches on Wednesday. (ChriDAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - CHRIS DUNN)

"It's helping me know more people," Corwin said. "But I hated (physical training) because I hate running," she added.

Ludlow said that one of the favorite parts for the younger campers is the lunch.

"They are all fascinated by the MREs (meals ready to eat)," Ludlow said.

"Some students say they prefer the MREs over school lunches," Innerst joked.

As he looked around at the cadets helping the campers, Innerst said he is looking forward to the years ahead.

"It's just so exciting," he said. "We are building for the future."

The program will conclude Friday afternoon with a graduation ceremony at the Courtyard of Honor on the secondary campus.

About the JROTC program

The Dallastown Marine JROTC program is entering its eighth year. Lt. Col. Joseph Innerst is a JROTC instructor at the school and said there are more than 200 cadets involved in JROTC making it one of the largest programs at the school.

Innerst said the program is not designed to recruit students for military service but rather gives students leadership experience and teaches students how to work together.

Innerst said Dallastown is one of two schools in the county with a JROTC program. William Penn Senior High School also has an Army JROTC program.

Red Land High School, in the West Shore district, also has JROTC program.