In an high school gym in southern Queensland, a group of young students are dressed in Army fatigues and standing to attention while “drill sergeant” Lisa Henderson runs through the last of the roll call.
“OK, everyone’s here. You have 10 seconds to either fix your hair or wipe the sweat off your brow and then after that you don’t move!”
Ms Henderson is a former Air Force member and is now a youth support coordinator, and standing in front of her are “Mabel Force”.
They are the first inductees into an experimental school program at Mabel Park High School that uses military-style tactics to teach students life skills.
"The military is fantastic when it comes to building character and also discipline," Ms Henderson told ABC News Breakfast.
"Discipline is something that teenagers really do need, whether they know it or not."
Students in the voluntary program are put through physical and emotional exercises and learn military procedures like standing to attention and marching.
They also do teamwork drills, dress in uniform and mimic the types of things Australian Defence Force cadets undergo.
The idea came about after two Mabel Park graduates tried to join the military last year but were rejected.
Ms Henderson considered running fitness training sessions one afternoon a week for future students, but after talking to other teachers the idea grew.
"It just blossomed into a military-style program," she said.
"What we've done is looked at the three elements that are really important in a teenager's life, and that is building a healthy body, building a healthy mind, and building character."
No pleases or thankyous
The program has similar elements to cadet units that exist in some Australian schools already, with team building often at the core.
However, with Mabel Force the dial is turned up a notch.
"With our military-style we do instruct in the military manner, so I don't use my pleases or thankyous, I give clear and concise instructions," Ms Henderson said.
"I wouldn't say barking or yelling, I do project my voice so they do hear me clearly, and they do respond to it very well."
And the rules are strict. For example, if one Mabel Force member speaks out of turn the whole group can be subjected to exercises.
The program began this year and is just about to enter its second term. And despite the somewhat unusual length the group goes to, Ms Henderson said she had not received any pushback from parents.
"It's to get them thinking about other people and to work as a team," she said.
"That brings out a lot of camaraderie, it brings out engagement with the students who might not engage with the students in the school in that way.
"Kids just feel proud. When they come to attention, and when they finally get it ... you just see a little smile come on their face and they just stand taller and prouder."
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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