Leadership Enhancement and Development Complex, Part I

rappel towerThis is the first in a series of articles about the Marine Military Academy Leadership Enhancement and Development Complex, affectionately referred to as The Back 40, which will appear over the next several days.

Maj  Harold Compton

Leadership Enhancement and Development Complex Background (LEAD Complex)

In 1999, the Marine Military Academy began work on what would grow over the next 12 years into the largest and most varied outdoor adventure training facility found anywhere. The facility is located on the northern edge of the Academy grounds. The nine separate training courses cover approximately 9 acres. The training courses and training modalities include:

  • Speed March Reaction Course
  • Pugil Stick Pit
  • Rope Bridge Training Facility
  • Obstacle Course
  • Circuit Course
  • Rappel/Climbing Tower
  • High/Low Ropes Course
  • Confidence Course
  • Combat Fitness Course

the A-FrameThe construction of the first three courses (Speed March Reaction Course, Obstacle Course and Tower) was completed by a local construction company; all the remaining course were built by staff members. The courses are inspected annually by staff members in the spring and an inspection is conducted by a vendor from the Association for Challenge Course Technology each year. Routine maintenance is performed by Academy staff members, and efforts are constantly aimed at improving the LEAD Complex in any way to challenge cadets and help spur their development.

 As soon as work begun on the challenge course it was recognized that trained and certified instructors would be needed to ensure participant safety. The first training of Academy instructors was conducted in early 1999 when the Marine Corps Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) provided training and certification to allow rappel training of cadets. The following year an additional training course was conducted by SOTG to complete training of a sufficient cadre of instructors.  In 2001, two staff members completed the Boy Scout COPE Directors course and were certified to operate the newly completed High Ropes Course.  Over the next several years additional staff members were certified to conduct both the High and Low Ropes course and the rock climbing facility was run by two staff members that had completed the American Mountain Guide Association Single Pitch Instructors Course. The last instructors added were for additional Rappel Masters in early 2011.  Instructors are required to conduct annual training to maintain certification or attend refreshers courses every few years.

How the LEAD Complex Strengthens Our Cadets and Helps Boys Become Men

leadership reaction courseThe LEAD Complex is used by the Marine Military Academy Military Department as a training supplement to our Marine Corps JROTC Leadership Program. Serving as a rite of passage through which cadets are tested physically and mentally, the LEAD Complex strengthens and reinforces the values of the MCJROTC program that prepares young men for leadership roles. Some of the ways in which the LEAD Complex helps transform cadets into capable leaders in high school, college, and beyond include:

  • Develop individual confidence
  • Promote physical endurance and mental sharpness
  • Provide intense hands-on leadership learning experiences that emphasize fast decision-making
  • Enhance team-based communication and problem solving capabilities
  • Strengthen rapid and focused leadership techniques

The LEAD Complex is a major portion of the Marine Military Academy Summer Camp program, which hosts young men from all over the world who are interested in gaining leadership skills that will give them a competitive edge in the future while climbing towers, negotiating ropes courses, crawling through mud, and other summer activities most other boys never experience in their lifetime. The LEAD Complex is also used extensively by local Army, Marine Corps Reserve and JROTC units for leadership training, as well as by local police departments, sheriffs and the US Border Patrol.

 Read Part II, Rappelling at the Marine Military Academy, to learn more about the rappel facilities at Marine Military Academy. If you are interested in learning more Marine Military Academy, the LEAD Complex, or our all-boys summer camp in Texas, call (956) 423-6006 or request more information here.