By Tanner Cole, Summer Intern, U.S. Army Cadet Command Public AffairsJuly 7, 2014
FORT KNOX, Kentucky (July 7, 2014) -- The first regiments of the Leader Development and Assessment Course graduated Sunday, here, to the applause of their families and loved ones.
Now that they are graduated, the Cadets only need to finish their college education in order to achieve the rank of second lieutenant.
The ceremony took place under the bright morning sun at Brooks Field, here . This is the first-ever LDAC graduation to take place at Fort Knox. The event attracted a crowd of proud friends and family from all over the country.
Some attendants experienced LDAC themselves previously, such as Jenna Yoder. Yoder went through the training last year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington. Yoder is an Army second lieutenant.
"It's a good thing to see him graduate," Yoder said. "He's on to the next part of his life now. He's all Army. He loves it."
Yoder came to see her fiancée, Austin Pilkington of the University of Pittsburg. She was just one proud face in the crowds. Ken and Pleshette Markel attended to see their daughter finish yet another accomplishment.
"I'm very proud of her," Ken Markel said. "She put a lot of hard work into this and we're glad to see it. I'm glad she knows what she wants to do."
As an award winning jump-roper and a gymnastics coach, Michele Markel had plenty of experience with leadership roles prior to LDAC. She's won national championships in 'double dutch' and freestyle jump-roping competitions, and she's an All-American gymnast.
"She's been all over the country jumping rope and taking younger jumpers with her," Ken said. "She wants to pursue more schooling and make a military career. Hopefully it's the first step towards a lot of other things."
Simultaneous to their graduation, 35 Cadets from the same regiments took the stage right across the street for their commissioning ceremony.
These Cadets already finished their education and were ready to commission now that they finished LDAC. Their enthusiasm reflected the bright future their graduating squad-mates next door had waiting for them.
After receiving his golden bars signifying his new rank as second lieutenant, Erik Michels stood at the back of the auditorium thanking everyone he could find.
"It's a feeling I can't describe in words," Michels said. "This is probably my biggest milestone. It's a big turning point in everybody's career. You go from being a college kid and having almost no cares in the world to being in charge of a platoon of 60 people."
Back at the ceremony, the Cadets started to leave the field. They were triumphant. They had just conquered their month-long evaluation, and they were heading out to eat something besides freeze-dried Army food.
Accompanied by his parents, brothers, sisters and girlfriend, Matthew Andreozzi left the field with his head held high.
"It feels awesome that they actually drove 14 hours from Connecticut to come down here," Andreozzi said. "This feels good. I'm going to keep developing and learning and do what I can to become a good officer."
As for future LDAC Cadets wondering what the training was like, Andreozzi offered them just one remark.
"They can come find out for themselves," he said.