‘Making Gold Bars’ at the Cadet Summer Training mission

10/20/2016  |  Story and photos Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs NCOIC
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Maj. Gen. Mark McQueen, 108th Training Command (IET) commanding general, speaks to a Cadet in Cadet Basic Training at Fort Knox, Ky., during the Key Leader Engagement exercise July 22. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps’ Cadet Summer Training Mission is supported by the 108th Training Command (IET) through its Task Force Wolf throughout the summer.

In 1916, then President Woodrow Wilson, signed into law the National Defense Act of 1916.

With the swift stroke of a pen, the Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps was born.

Today, Army ROTC programs, under the control of Cadet Command, have found their way into 275 colleges and universities throughout the United States and its territories; producing more than half a million new Army officers since the program’s inception.

While summers for most at these institutions of higher learning is generally dedicated to beaches in exotic locations and outdoor barbeques with friends, students in the Army’s ROTC program spend their summer break training for a career of service with the United States Army.

Leadership Laboratory

Each year, an average of 7,000 cadets in the Army’s ROTC program participate in what is known as the Cadet Summer Training mission at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Broken down into two phases, cadets go through either a 30-day initial entry training known as the Basic Camp or a 31-day Leadership training known as the Advanced Camp. Both are designed to lay the foundations of warrior and leadership skills in what one Army Reserve leader calls an “effective and efficient leadership laboratory.”

A Cadet in Cadet Initial Entry Training at Fort Knox, Ky., performs the deadlift as a part of the occupational physical assessment test, or OPAT, July 22. This is the first year the assessment has been given to new Cadets in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.

“This leadership lab creates the conditions for Cadets to learn and excel. Additionally, it allows us our opportunity to asses future leaders, capitalize on their strengths while identifying and improving on their weaknesses,” said Maj. Gen. Mark McQueen, 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training) commanding general.

The 108th is made up of instructors and support cadre from the 104th Training Division (LT) and drill sergeants from its 95th and 98th Training Divisions. Together, throughout the summer at Fort Knox, they function as single entity known as Task Force Wolf. Laying the groundwork for success, they ensure all who attend have the tools they need to achieve their goals.

Through Task Force Wolf, those Soldiers work hand in hand with Soldiers from the active component and National Guard to plan, establish, and facilitate ranges and provide logistical support.

A Cadet in Cadet Initial Entry Training at Fort Knox, Ky., lays down suppressive fire for his team mate at the Hand Grenade Assault course, July 22.

Preparing Future Leaders For an Evolving Battlefield

As the modern battlefield evolves so does the training at the Cadet Summer Training mission.

Old or obsolete practices are continuously updated. Training support packages are developed to address an ever-changing battlefield and the operating environment these future leaders will be called to serve in.

Cadets in Cadet Basic Training at Fort Knox, Ky., participate in a Key Leader Exercise, July 23.

“We are now using the Occupational Physical Assessment Test at the CST to better determine the physical capabilities of the Cadets,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Russell P. Smith, U.S. Army Reserve command chief warrant officer.

“This allows us to determine what options cadets have in terms of their future branch.”

“We’re also looking at our Medical Readiness standards. It’s coming down to whether a Soldier is deployable or non-deployable. The Chief of Staff of the Army (Gen. Mark Milley) needs deployable Soldiers and it’s up to us to provide those Soldiers.”

In addition, Smith says that future leaders in the ROTC program will find themselves preparing for the foreign, near-peer Army threat as opposed to solely the counterinsurgency one.

“We’re going back to some of the basics here that we would have previously taught in the ‘70’s, ‘80’s and early 90’s but have gotten away from: basic tasks such as light discipline, noise discipline, and camouflage.

He says that revisiting past practices will help enable the shift in mindset needed as the Army looks once again at the possibility of fighting conventional forces in a different theater.

A Cadet in Cadet Basic Training at Fort Knox, Ky., has his weapon inspected by an Army Reserve drill sergeant from the 95th Training Division (IET) before turning it in to the arms room July 22.

“These are the future leaders of the Army Reserve and total Army. What they learn here is going to set the tone for their future success,” he added.

The ‘Soldierization’ Process

The Army has spent 52 years now perfecting an initial entry training model that turns ordinary citizens into tested and trusted Warriors. For enlisted Soldiers, this process takes place during 10 short weeks in Basic Combat Training.

It’s a process that Command Sgt. Major Lamont Christian, Fort Jackson post command sergeant major and former U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy commandant, calls the “Soldierization” process.

Constraints on training time and space create extra challenges for cadets in ROTC. Educational requirements at their home schools add an additional complexity.

“At the Military Academy there is a structured program of instruction that develops them throughout the entire 4 years. ROTC Cadets go through their military science instruction in a class room environment,” Christian said.

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