One by one, students dangled a few feet above the water as they made their way across the Provo River using only rope, a carabiner clip, and their muscle.

Independence High School’s Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, or Junior ROTC, held a single-rope bridge activity near the school at the Provo River in Paul Ream Wilderness Park on Wednesday afternoon. Students participate in at least two service-learning activities, such as the single-rope bridge activity, per class throughout the Junior ROTC program. In preparation for each activity, students help train each other.

“It’s really about building individual leadership and team skills,” said David Miller, senior army instructor in the JROTC program. “Junior ROTC is all about learning citizenship, learning to be good citizens. That’s the goal of JROTC.”

The day’s exercise was the culmination of putting together several other skills learned in the program, such as tying rope knots, to complete a complex task. The majority of the 76 students enrolled in the school’s Junior ROTC program were present for the activity and cheered for each classmate as they crossed the approximately 60-foot expanse above the river.

“For a moment there you’re scared, but then all you want to do is just get across,” said Brittany Tuck, a junior at Independence, recounting her experience crossing river. A color guard captain and staff sergeant in the Junior ROTC program, Tuck plans on joining the army after graduating from high school.  

Miller served 25 years in the army and retired as a lieutenant colonel before becoming the head instructor of the Junior ROTC program at the school. Upon retiring, he was worried about finding something to do that fulfilled him as much as his army career.

Now using his army training to teach students practical tasks, Miller has found his second calling. “I’ve got great students and I love what I do here,” he said as his students filed back into his classroom after a productive activity.