2 Manning High School cadets, their instructor attend program in Singapore


MANNING - A Manning High School Air Force Junior ROTC instructor and two of his cadets took the trip of a lifetime in November 2018 to Singapore as part of the Singapore International Cadet Exchange Program.

Senior Aerospace Science Instructor Lt. Col. Frank Ladson, retired U.S. Air Force, along with Cadet Lt. Col. Antonio Pearson and Cadet Technical Sgt. Harrison Sargent, were selected from a pool of more than 700 cadets who attended the 2018 JROTC Summer Leadership Course at The Citadel. Cadets from Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida all vied for the opportunity to attend the program in Southeast Asia.

"It was a great opportunity for our cadets," Ladson said. "We live in a global world today. This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our cadets. The gist of the program was cultural exchange and leadership."

"Singapore to me was an honor," Sargent said. "When Col. Ladson told me that there was an opening for the trip, I was excited; I almost cried. Singapore for me was a very good experience and an inspiring trip. I got to meet people from many different places and from many different countries across the world."

Sargent said that on his trip, he learned that "team work is my favorite type of work."

"My most favorite place that we went was Sentosa Park," Sargent added. "I got to ride many fun rides with my friends, and we spent a lot of time sightseeing and making memories. I built relationships with many people, and I made many new friends. I hope one day that I can revisit beautiful Singapore again."

Pearson called his trip to Singapore "the greatest experience of my life."

"Having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel outside of the United States was such an amazing and thrilling experience," Pearson added. "Not only did I enjoy meeting cadets from other ROTC units in the United States, I also got the chance to meet cadets from Australia, the U.K., India and Singapore."

Pearson said he garnered lifetime friendships that he "never in a million years" thought he would get to do.

"It was a humbling experience and an overall huge eye opener to get out of my comfort zone to see Singapore's beautiful countryside and culture. It's something that I will cherish and never forget," Pearson shared.

According to Clarendon School District 2, Pearson and Sargent were the first cadets from MHS to attend the program. They were selected because of their excellent records on all fronts at MHS. The two cadets submitted applications and r sum s that were reviewed by a selection committee. Their selection was also based on their physical fitness scores and recommendations from their JROTC instructors.

The program's purpose is to expose high school students to individuals and cultures from around the world. The MHS cadets had the opportunity to interact with high-caliber students through a variety of cultural immersion experiences and team-building activities.

Pearson and Sargent, along with 15 cadets from other AFJROTC units in Wando and Charleston, Georgia and North Carolina and two Coast Guard JROTC cadets from North Carolina, boarded a plane at Charleston International Airport at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 9 and arrived in Singapore around 1 a.m. on Nov. 11. The time difference between Manning and Singapore was 13 hours, according to Ladson.

For the next 10 days, the contingent from the United States along with cadets from Singapore, India, the United Kingdom and Australia toured Singapore and its culture. The group built bashas, completed a night jungle walk, visited Singapore's Little India and went kayaking and dragon boating. They also visited Singapore's Botanic Gardens, the Orchard Street Shopping District, Sentosa Island and Singapore's Chinatown.

Ladson said that he, Pearson and Sargent had the opportunity to visit the United States Embassy in Singapore.

"It was a crazy time at the Embassy because the vice president of the United States was in town," Ladson shared. "We were extremely honored that they took the time to meet with us."

The cadets also learned to work together with cadets from other nations, Ladson added.

"All the cadets worked together to perform multiple tasks such as balancing on a board, rope swinging and climbing, zip lining, kayaking, archery, obstacle course run, camping outside and physical training," Ladson said.

On the last night of the trip, each country received an award, and all the cadets from each country performed a routine that demonstrated their country's culture, Ladson said.

"The trip was a great opportunity for our cadets," Ladson said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they will remember always."