WHAT EXACTLY IS RAIDER?
Raider Competition or "Raider" as it is more commonly known is a very popular athletic competition held within Junior ROTC programs around the United States from all services. It is the Junior ROTC equivalent of the Army ROTC "Ranger" competition in college, only far less dangerous but very challenging as well! The events are held outdoors primarily in state parks, school facilities, scout camps, military facilities or other large expansive wooded areas. The better competitions have plenty of parking and sleeping areas for spectators and participants on-site, as well as concessions and other amenities to make the event fun for all.
The exact Raider events differ depending on where you are competing much like every golf course is slightly different but the game is the same. Generally, no matter where you compete, there will be some type of personal fitness/individual strength test (i.e., push-ups, curl-ups, tire drag, obstacle course, etc.) There will also be a distance team running event, along with some type of "through the woods" obstacle type event, and also some form of rescue/first aid event (rescuing a body from the woods on a liter). Lastly, almost every Raider event has some form of One Rope Bridge construction/transport component. Other events can be maintained and often are held including first aid test, land navigation, humvee pull, etc. but I think you get the general idea that this is a mental and physical test of strength and endurance that takes a committed group of youngsters Cadet must be willing to train hard to prepare for to be safe and successful.
Raider events are specifically designed far less dangerous in comparison to their ROTC-level parallels because Junior ROTC is about citizenship, leadership and physical, mental and emotional wellness. ROTC is a program designed to provide officers into the U.S. military. The missions of these two programs are completely different and are taught completely differently. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the events are different as well.
Rules can be very different for Raider competition depending on where you live and where you compete. Again, painting with a broad brush, several schools from the South & Midwest feel that many Raider competitions are not as challenging as they could or should be physically. Conversely, several schools from the northeast often comment that most Raider events are too physically demanding from cadets. Most all now agree with the rigor of the events. Some schools think it should be more cerebral with more intelligence-based events included. Fortunately, much like the three bears, most schools think the Raider Nationals is just about right!
While the vast majority of Raider teams are formed within Army JROTC programs, by FAR the fastest growing segment of new Raiders teams are coming from Air Force and Marine Corps JROTC. In fact, the USMC JROTC is hosting their OWN RAIDER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP in Pennsylvania beginning in 2024! The AF makes the Molena, Georgia All-Service JROTC Championships their service Championship as well with the top finishers being crowned right there!
Most schools who "Raider" have a male team, but almost as many have a mixed team. Some bigger schools also offer a separate female team as well, or any combination thereof depending on the number of cadets looking to participate. Some have Challenge Level teams as a "JV" or "Freshman" team. As the competitive sport of Raider gains more and more teams, it becomes more of an all-service competition. Regardless, competing in Raider is a great way for JROTC cadets to stay mentally and physically in shape in a military framework. Mostly, it is a fantastic physical and mental activity in JROTC that cadets gravitate towards everywhere!