More than 40 teenagers are challenging themselves this week through survival training on islands in Lake Murray.
“I love adventure,” Pamela Edmisson, 17 of Fort Myers, Fla. said. “This is camping the extreme way.”
Members of the group swam ashore late Monday from boats that ferried them near Wessinger Island to begin four days of instruction similar to that given to Navy SEALs.
“This is testing my limits,” said Jacob Wallace, 14, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “But you’re doing it with others who are almost a second family.”
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The teens are Sea Cadets from 17 states – none from South Carolina – who are interested in military careers. The national association is run by veterans who want to encourage that interest.
They spent the week building shelters, scavenging food and learning aquatic rescue and other skills required of commandos, often with minimal sleep.
The week followed a week of instruction at Fort Jackson similar to that for Army enlistees.
The training is demanding but doable if you’re determined, some of the teens say.
“I wipe the sweat from my brow and keep going,” said Josh Erickson, 17. of Augusta. “I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”
Perseverance pays dividends personally, teens who have gone through the training say.
“I have a lot more confidence in myself than I ever did,” said Kelsey Winters, 14, of Chapin, who went through it last year.
Her father, Kelly, took a week of vacation from his job as a trauma nurse at Palmetto Health Richland to serve as a medic again for this year’s group.
“Before this, my idea of roughing it was a lack of room service,” he said. “This is tiring but fun.”
Winters is one of 10 volunteers who oversee the effort, assisted by groups and businesses such as the Lake Murray Association, Lake Murray Boat Club, Lake Murray Marina and Southern Patriot tour boat.
The 47,500-acre lake is becoming popular for such training for teens.
It’s a model that local Sea Cadet leaders say could be expanded nationwide.
Those selected for the training this summer are a third of the number of cadets who applied.
Former Marine Roger Wheeler, a Midlands Sea Cadet leader who developed the training, said it attracts high achievers.
“These are the kind of kids I want to see running the country,” he said.
Juan Botero, 17, of Denver returned as a counselor after going through the instruction last year.
“It was a lot tougher than I thought,” he said. “But I learned to keep on going, no matter how much I wanted to quit.”
Edmisson, of Florida, one of four young women in the group, said each of the 42 teens brings a skill that benefits all during the intensive training.
“Along with doing all the tough-guy stuff, I cook a pretty good breakfast,” she said. “That’s a bonus.”