Cadet Observations Go Digital

Former Night Fighter Streamlines the Cadet Evaluation Process


Cadet Erik Hegge, a senior at University of Nevada, Reno, enters an observation on Leadership Tracker while MS IIIs prepare to brief an OPORD during STX lanes.

On a scrub-covered hill in the desert, a Soldier plucks an AT-4 from a fallen subordinate and low-crawls to cover while shouting distance and direction of an enemy position.  A team leader seamlessly pivots his team from clearing an objective to reacting to an IED. A squad leader briefly struggles with radio protocol but otherwise excels in leading her unit through a challenging mission. Watching it all, a lanky MS IV Cadet fiddles with his phone.

This is an ROTC squad situational training lane lane and the Senior Cadet evaluating his subordinates is alternating between observing the action and swiping at, pecking at, and talking to his smart phone. The chill of the morning is gone from the terrain and Cadre are running hot. 

But what otherwise would be the prologue for a concerned NCO about to send a Samsung or iPhone spinning furiously into space is actually an effective use of off-the-shelf technology.

The MS IV Cadet “fiddling” with his phone is actually recording observations categorized by leadership attributes on a website called – rather brilliantly – Leadership Tracker. The Cadet adds a few mentorship comments to share with the observed leader and rates the positive or detrimental strength of the noted attributes. That evening, a Cadre member reviews the Cadet inputs to look for trends in leadership behavior to shape the following week’s counseling statement.

Cadet Erik Hegge, a senior at University of Nevada, Reno, enters an observation on Leadership Tracker while MS IIIs prepare to brief an OPORD during STX lanes.

The Leadership Tracker is the brainchild of Master Sgt. Christopher Little, the Senior Military Instructor at University of Nevada, Reno (UNR).

“Observations help focus counseling through the lens of the Army Leadership Requirements Model,” says Little, formerly a Drill Sergeant with 3-415th now preparing to retire from active duty. In a large program, such as UNR, Cadre have fewer opportunities to observe individual Cadets in leadership roles; therefore, much of the observation falls to Cadets in their Senior year (MS IVs; Cadet cohorts are designated by their year in the program; Seniors in their fourth year of ROTC are MS IVs, Juniors are MS IIIs, etc.). MS IV Cadets are trained and regularly admonished to write quality observations and mentor subordinates, but even so Cadre are challenged to develop a complete picture of a Cadet’s leadership ability.  

Cadet Andrew Montes, a senior at University of Nevada, Reno, enters an observation on Leadership Tracker while MS IIIs prepare to brief an OPORD during STX lanes.

When it fell to Little to develop topics for counseling statements, he encountered the problem of organizing observations into meaningful behavioral patterns. This task meant picking and choosing between observed leadership attributes with little basis other than the strength of the written comment. Little needed a way rapidly categorize observations and get a more objective sense of any given MS III Cadet’s strengths and weaknesses. So he made one.

While recovering from surgery two years ago, he coded a program UNR ROTC now uses as a comprehensive base for observations, mentorship, and developmental focus. The Leadership Tracker (accessed at provides a one-stop shop for entering observations and mentorship comments. Observers categorize the behaviors into any of the doctrinal leader attributes right out of ADRP 6-22. Cadre are able to review observations on the website and access a bigger picture to visualize trends in exhibited attributes. 

Evaluating in Stride. Cadet Kristofer Kufalk, a senior at University of Nevada, Reno, enters observations on Leadership Tracker while underclassmen deliver a FRAGO during STX lanes.

The requirement to capture observations – such as on a spot report or other mechanism – is an enduring requirement in developing leaders, but the volume of paperwork can be daunting without a system in place. For instance, at the close of their third year, Cadets receive a COER (a document similar in composition and purpose to the NCOER and OER). 20 to 30 pages of supporting documents (primarily counseling statements) are appended to the COER. In a large program, this could mean one or two Cadre are responsible for producing an excess of 1,000 pages of counseling. With these conditions, the value of a centralized database of observed attributes cannot be understated.

Cadre overseeing the leadership activity of MS IV Cadets can also develop an impression of the quality of observations and mentorship. Likewise, Cadre are able to see whether Cadets are receiving a greater or lesser number of evaluations – a red flag signaling the need to direct more leadership opportunities to an observation-starved Cadet.

An interesting feature is the site also provides a means to quantify behavioral strengths. By selecting a zero, five, or ten, evaluators enumerate the strength of the observed behavior; this handily allows left-brained Cadre to visualize trends in Cadet progress.

Little’s website is a user-friendly system developed and used by Cadre who needed a format to replace the discontinued Blue Card (form CC 156-4A-R). Furthermore, because The Leadership Tracker is nested in doctrine any leader in the Army could use this program to develop subordinates. The Leadership Tracker can be found at; it is free for SROTC programs to use and is password protected.


Contact Us

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.