Leadership Enhancement and Development Complex (LEAD Complex) Construction
Maj Harold Compton
There have been a number of comments about the Marine Military Academy Leadership Enhancement and Development (LEAD) Complex concerning its construction, when it was built, who built it, etc. This article will attempt to provide some of the details on how this complex has evolved over the last 12 years into one of the most complete training facilities found anywhere. Although the LEAD Complex was constructed to support the Corps of Cadets and Summer Camp, it was quickly recognized by many other agencies as a premier training facility and is used by many Junior ROTC units throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Local law enforcement agencies also use the LEAD Complex and in 2008, the U.S. Army began using the facility for their annual summer Cadet Leadership Camp.
LEAD Complex Background
In 1998, the MMA president, superintendent and commandant of cadets all had a vision for an outdoor training facility that could provide physical fitness training, help to instill confidence in cadets, foster teamwork among cadets and help them overcome their fear of taking on challenging physical tasks and heights. This complex would be known as the Leadership Enhancement and Development Complex, or LEAD Complex, and would be used for two major purposes: to augment the Marine Corps Junior ROTC program and to be the major focus of the MMA Summer Camp Program.
The initial complex would include just three events: the rappel tower, obstacle course and leadership reaction course. Initial construction was done by a local contractor, and the three events were completed in time for the 1999 summer camp. Although the Military department staff all had experience in running the Obstacle Course and Leadership Reaction Course, they had no certified rappelmasters to run the Rappel Tower. In early 1999, a training team from the U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Training Group, II MEF came to MMA to train an initial cadre of rappelmasters. MMA then purchased all the necessary harnesses, helmets, gloves, carabiners and ropes to conduct training with cadets and summer campers, and rappeling became a prime event with the 1999 summer camp.
The next year, MMA began the next installment of the LEAD Complex and constructed the first segment of the High Ropes event. The intial section included four high events and zipline. It was built on the north edge of the complex close to the Tower. The high poles were set by a local contractor, and after a 30-day period to allow the poles to settle, work began on the rigging. All rigging work was done by MMA staff and was completed in time for the 200 summer camp. During the first summer of use it was apparent that a complex of this type was instrumental in the success of the MMA Summer Camp program and plans began immediately for additions to it.
LEAD Complex Continues to Grow
In 2000, the initial Climbing Wall was completed on the north face of the tower and was also open for business for MMA Summer Camp. An additional nine Low Ropes events were added, which included such events as Low Swinging Log, Nitro Crossing, Triangle Traverse and a 12′ Wall.
The LEAD Complex was quickly becoming a major focus of MMA’s summer camp, being used almost daily by as many as 350 summer campers. Throughout this entire period, the commandant of cadets was instrumental in the planning for future additions to make the LEAD Complex even more challenging and fun! His experiences with training courses at Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot, Parris Island provided ideas for future expansion.
The next event desired was a Circuit Course, and work began on it in early 2005. Work on the Circuit Course was supervised by the Facilities department. However, much of the actual labor was performed by Boy Scouts as part of a cadet’s Eagle Scout project. The work on this event took a little longer to complete as the cadets were only able to work on it about one to one-and-a-half hours each day and on weekends. The work, however, was completed in time for the next summer camp.
The LEAD Complex was quickly taking over the entire Back 40 area! During this same period, and a second set of High Ropes events on the southeastern corner of the complexwas begun and was also completed in time for summer camp.
LEAD Complex Picks Up Speed
Although the LEAD Complex now included five major events, the work was not going to slow down. The commandant of cadets requested the construction of a Confidence Course. Staff members traveled to San Antonio to view the Confidence Course at Camp Bullis, and when they returned they developed a plan that included the associated costs.
With the exception of the setting of the high poles, all work was performed by MMA staff. Poles were ordered and delivered in December 2006 and were immediately set. In January 2007, work began on the assembly of the 13 events on the course. A number of specialized hangers were required, which the Facilities department fabricated. Work progressed quickly, and in March 2007, the course was open to the Corps of Cadets for the first running. The course was added to the summer camp program that year, and campers ran the course several times during the four-week program.
The LEAD Complex was quickly filling up the Back 40 area, but MMA was not finished. A Pugil Sticks pit was constructed, and supports for an overhead netting to block the hot summer sun was added to the event. Work then focused on construction of a Combat Fitness Test Course. This course was set up within the boundaries of the Confidence Course and was first used by the cadets in 2009.
The last event added to the complex was a Rope Bridge. This event will be added to MMA’s 2012 summer camp! The Rope Bridge event was improved in early 2012 and will be ready for use this next summer. The Facilites Department also added a permanent support structure on the top of the Tower for netting to block the sun on the top of the tower when conducting training, which was very appreciated by all of the instructors!
The LEAD Complex is by no mean finished and there are additional events that are being discussed for the future: addition of a second zipline to speed up participants running the event, additional low obstacles on the confidence course and expansion of the climbing walls. The staff is always looking for new and challenging events to provide the highest level of training to our cadets and enjoyment for our summer campers.
Upgrade and Maintenance of the LEAD Complex
With the number of personnel utilizing the complex, coupled with the weather near the coastline, continual maintenance of the LEAD Complex is vital to ensure its continued use. MMA staff conduct regular inspections and maintenance on the courses to include cable replacement, tightening and adjustment of hardware, painting and replacement of aging lumber and logs. All ropes are replaced when worn, and cargo nets are replaced about every four to five years depending on wear. The High and Low Ropes Courses are required to be inspected by an Association for Challenge Course Technology vendor ever year. Since its construction, MMA’s course has never failed an inspection!
The Climbing Wall was in need of some repairs in 2010, and MMA had a local contractor remove the entire north wall and replace it will an upgraded wall. All climbing holds were replaced at the same time, and the new wall was in use for the 2011 summer camp. The LEAD Complex continues to be an evolving facility, and each year new ideas are proposed to add to and enhance the complex and provide a high level of training to our cadets.
LEAD Complex Photos
Check out our Summer Camp Multimedia Galleryto see many of the events on the LEAD Complex being run by summer campers.
To learn more about the Marine Military Academy visit our website at http://www.mma-tx.org.