FORT HOOD — Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity and personal courage are each attributes required to be a soldier.
They are also the same attributes used to challenge and motivate Killeen and Harker Heights football players Wednesday.
The Kangaroos and Knights redefined Warrior Week — the days prior to spring football — thanks to an opportunity to go to Fort Hood and participate in the first ever High School Varsity Football Team Army Boot Camp Competition and military installation tour.
“They learn how important it is for them to work together as a team,” Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Betts III said. “Understanding that everything that they’re doing in the offseason — from team building to lifting weights to the chants — all that plays a part into their season next year.”
Simulated to be similar to the first days of basic training, both teams were immediately greeted on their buses by drill sergeants.
Killeen and Harker Heights went head to head in an Army obstacle course, receiving points based on team and individual performances.
“The best part of being out here is being together with the team and getting all pumped up,” Harker Heights junior Ethan Hanks said.
The Knights wide receiver also prepared for the competition by
asking his father about his experiences in the military.
“It’s really fun,” Hanks said, “because I was able to talk to my dad about what he went through when he first got in the Army and the similarities of what we’re doing today.”
While the teams showed up ready to compete, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II, III Corps. and Fort Hood Commander, addressed the Knights and the Kangaroos before the competition began.
“This is what going pro looks like,” Funk said, addressing the athletes as he would soldiers in basic training. “This is about life and death. This is about being a part of something bigger than yourselves.
“This is about being committed to the greatest nation on Earth.”
Among those in attendance were Garrison Commander Col. Hank Perry, Harker Heights Mayor Spencer Smith and Killeen Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kilpatrick.
“I don’t think it happens anywhere else in the country where a high school football team can come out onto a military base and get the experience from a boot camp perspective,” Harker Heights head coach Jerry Edwards said. “So it’s really great for our kids to come out here and experience it all, including hearing from a General Funk — a three-star general.
“It’s really cool for our kids to experience and build that team bonding by rewarding them for all their work in the offseason by coming out here to compete.”
Although the Knights came into with a slight advantage as it was their third year participating, the Kangaroos took the victory.
“I think it was awesome,” Killeen head coach Neil Searcy said. “Anytime you can have your team come out and compete is great, and today, all the kids are competing.
“It’s us versus Harker Heights, but it’s a friendly kind of competition, and all the kids are getting after it.”
The competition has been a work in progress, beginning three years ago with an idea from Knights strength and conditioning coach Garson Skelton.
Until this year, the Knights have experienced the event alone.
Finally, however, it expanded to include two Killeen ISD teams, and the recruiting center hopes it continues to grow.
“The idea for a competition was there the first year,” Betts said, “but we had to grow it from the ground up and let everyone see what it was all about as far as community engagement.
“Now that everybody has bought into it, we were able to get Harker Heights and Killeen to compete, and hopefully next year, we’ll be able to get the entire school district out here.”