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Okaloosa Academy students spend day with Army Rangers at Camp Rudder: A Day of Empowerment and Teamwork

Students from Okaloosa Academy were given a unique and transformative experience on March 15, 2023, as they spent a day visiting the 6th Ranger Training Battalion at Camp James Rudder on […]

Students from Okaloosa Academy were given a unique and transformative experience on March 15, 2023, as they spent a day visiting the 6th Ranger Training Battalion at Camp James Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base. 

  • The students’ day began at 9 a.m., and according to Principal David Schmidt, the visit was part of an outreach program aimed at helping many of their at-risk students. 

Schmidt revealed that the connection with the 6th Ranger Training Battalion was made possible by a teacher whose husband is an Army Ranger. He noted that the Rangers shared similar stories to those of the students, making the collaboration even more meaningful.

Upon arrival, the students were immediately made aware that they were on a federal installation and that they would be facing “good, healthy pressure,” Schmidt said.

The Rangers quickly organized the students into teams and began a presentation on the habitat, reptiles, and other elements found in the environment they work in.

Following the presentation, the students were taken to an obstacle course where they participated in various team building and cardio exercises.

  • Principal Schmidt described the scene, saying, “we had about eight groups of six students that were teamed up… a lot of students that couldn’t complete a certain obstacle, the Army Rangers instilled in them that your whole team has to figure out a way how to get over it and how to get across it.

The teams of students then went down to the water, where they learned to paddle together in Army Ranger boats. During this activity the instructors emphasized the importance of teamwork and communication, pushing the students to figure things out without arguing or yelling.

Schmidt noted the significance of this exercise, as it required someone to step up and guide the boat in the right direction.

Afterward, the group enjoyed lunch together, during which the Rangers continued to build connections and relationships with the students. A few Rangers shared their personal stories and spoke about the opportunities available to the students, regardless of the challenges they face in life.

Following lunch, the students were treated to ice cream in small packets, and the instructor used this as a teachable moment about housekeeping and taking care of their environment. According to Schmidt, the instructor told them, “this is our house where our Army Rangers live, and this is our environment, and we want to take care of our house and keep up with our house.”

The day concluded with high fives, hugs, and the students boarding the bus back to campus. Reflecting on the experience, Principal Schmidt shared his pride in the students’ participation, stating, “every single student participated… all 48 students gave it 100 percent.” 

  • He added that the day’s goal was to “empower and impact these students and to give them a tangible model” of what they could achieve in life if they chose to.

Okaloosa Academy serves approximately 200 elementary, middle, and high school students from across the county who have been referred for various at-risk behaviors. The school’s mission is to help these students catch up academically, address behavioral issues, and empower them to be successful and ultimately graduate from high school and further their education. 

  • The visit to the 6th Ranger Training Battalion certainly contributed to this mission said Schmidt, offering an unforgettable experience that will stay with these students for years to come.

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