A CADET’S PERSPECTIVE: The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award

2_Eckardt_BabakThe following is a journal written by Duke of Edinburgh’s Award silver medalist, incoming senior and Battalion Commander for the 2015-16 school year Mohammad “Emran” Babak.

During the month of April cadet Eckardt and I, the only MMA participants at the gold level in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program, planned our Adventurous Journey to Colorado. We scheduled and planned the entire journey which is one of the requirements for the Gold level of the award. The plan included detailed route, communication, transportation and emergency procedure plans. Both of us, with the supervision of WO2 Richard Thornton and LT Sean Peters, did a very good job. Each one of us had a responsibility and worked as a team unit, helping each other. A group of two, we were responsible for navigating, communicating, taking care of minor injuries via First Aid and making final decisions.

6_babakFrom May 23rd through May 29th, we set off on our Duke of Edinburgh’s Adventurous Journey. After the completion of Final Formation on Saturday, May 23, we left MMA and headed toward Salina KOA Campground in Salina, KS which was our first night’s campsite.  With an early start on Sunday morning, we drove to Colorado and arrived at Lone Duck Campsite at Manitou Springs in the afternoon. After setting up our tents, we prepared our gear for the next day’s hike.

On Monday, May 25, we officially kicked off the Gold Adventurous Journey by climbing the Pikes Peak’s incline that morning. After climbing the incline we conducted a reconnaissance of the Barr Trial, which leads to the Pikes Peak, and followed by exploring the Garden of the Gods. Climbing the incline and enjoying a wonderful view of the Colorado Springs from the top of the incline, followed by visiting the Garden of the Gods and enjoying a gorgeous view of Pike’s Peak, was the best way to start the Adventurous Journey.

After becoming acclimated to the environment on our first day, we started early the next day, Tuesday May 26. We headed down Barr Trial to climb Pikes Peak. Watching the sunrise from the top and the beauty of the Barr Trial and the mountains around us was just gorgeous. I was speechless. After hiking about 4 hours we hit the snowline and stopped at the Barr Camp for a short break. Following the break, we continued our hike and passed the snowline, reaching an elevation of about 12,000 feet. Due to our lack of snow hiking equipment and presence of more than 6 feet snow of snow hiding the trial, we had to turn back and descend. After a long but enjoyable day of hiking, we returned to the campsite that afternoon.

1After packing all the gear and loading the van on Wednesday, May 27, we drove up Pikes Peak with a biking company. Due to heavy snow we again could not make it to the top. After biking down Pikes Peak with decent speed and enjoying wonderful views on the way down, we boarded the Cog Railway for a round trip of Pikes Peak via train that afternoon.  We all were so amazed by the gorgeous view of the mountains and we felt so special and grateful to have the opportunity to see four different states (Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska and Kansas) from the top of the mountain. After the excursion, we returned back to the campsite, loaded the van and we drove to Canon City for the last leg of the journey.

We started the fourth and final day of the Adventurous Journey with white water rafting followed by extreme course zip lining. Both were wonderful experiences which everyone loved. Rafting under the Royal George Bridge and zip lining the nation’s fastest zip line (70 miles per hour) added spice to the journey. After another wonderful day we finished the Gold Adventurous Journey and traveled back to Missouri Military Academy, arriving in Mexico, MO, on Friday Morning.

The purpose of the trip was to complete the Adventurous Journey and qualify for the gold DofE medal. However, the main reason behind all this preparation was to take responsibility, to improve our ability to make important decisions, to learn from our mistakes, and most importantly to be self-sufficient.