Fort Knox, Ky. (Aug. 14, 2015) -- With the graduation of Cadet Leader Course (CLC) Regiment 10 Aug. 13, the U.S. Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps wrapped up this year's Cadet Summer Training (CST) cycle -- better equipping nearly 13,000 cadets worldwide to provide skilled leaders in their schools, communities and the U.S. Army.

Those cadets were trained in a variety of program which included 10 Cadet Leader Course (CLC) regiments and nine Cadet Initial Entry Training (CIET) regiments at Fort Knox, the Cultural Understanding Language Program deployments to more than 80 countries, internships, and badge producing school such as Airborne and Air Assault School.

All of these programs have helped to mold the next generation of "gold bars," said Maj. Gen. Peggy Combs, Commanding General of U.S. Army ROTC Cadet Command, as she spotlighted the success and her hopes for the cadets trained this year during the last graduation ceremony for the summer.

"Most of you know Fort Knox is most famous for the gold in the depository right outside the gate, but I want to tell you, the real gold isn't in the depository, it's these cadets standing right in front of us today -- they are our nation's treasure," she said. "Less than one tenth of one percent of Americans volunteer to provide the selfless courage to raise their right hands and say, 'Send me to defend the freedoms and liberties of the remaining 99.9 percent of Americans,' and these cadets have been training to do just that. They have proven themselves to have the potential to become great leaders in our Army."

Forging that "gold" takes a lot of hard work and dedication from cadre, said Col. Blaine Hedges, commandant for CST.

"We had an all-star team of people from across the Army who came here to support this operation," he said. "It was absolutely fantastic, and the support that came from everyone involved was phenomenal."

As a result, the cadre for this year's CST was able to train more cadets with fewer staff members. Hedges said he thinks this was possible due to committed cadre engagement at all levels.
One way this extra engagement was applied was by having MSIII (academic junior) cadets act as squad leaders for their younger peers. This allowed them to get additional leadership time by serving as leaders for the MSIs (freshmen) and MSIIs (sophomores).

Another difference this year included increased communication and counseling at all levels, said Hedges, whose regular position is commander of Cadet Command's 7th Brigade at Fort Knox.

"The MSIIIs were receiving verbal counseling every day, because as squad leaders, they each had a platoon leader who was a brand new second lieutenant and a drill sergeant who was the platoon sergeant," he explained. "It was just a great developmental opportunity as they learned from the cadets, leading the cadets and then learning from the lieutenants and drill sergeants -- it was just absolutely fantastic."

Hedges said he's confident that this year's cadets are more prepared than ever because of some of the recent changes in how the training is conducted. He said one of the most noticeable and useful changes was applying the training to timely, real-world scenarios.

"Gen. Combs is really focused on improving weaknesses that we see across the Army and the quality of the cadets that we're commissioning. We're focusing on critical thinking and problem solving," he explained. "To do this, Gen. Combs took out the 'assessment' portion of the Cadet Leader Course because it could stifle the level of training the cadets received, because you had to keep everything exactly the same and exactly fair so everybody could get the exact same experience.

"Changing that has allowed us to do the best training here ever because it made it so that we didn't have to do exactly the same training for every learner. We were able to focus on the individual learner's needs, so maybe one person got two or three times in a leadership position where someone else maybe only got one," added Hedges. "It was really based on the developmental needs of the individual. We couldn't have done that with the 'assessment' in it."

Hedges noted that this year's training was also one of the most successful in recent history because of the level of engagement by cadre to cadet safety.

"Engaged leadership, hands down, was key to great training this summer," he said. "You have to have trained cadre who care and understand their cadets and their fellow cadre so that they can mitigate any risky behavior."

This extra attention to safety reduced heat-related injuries 65 percent over last year and safety incidents by 69 percent.

All of these efforts have led to better prepared, educated and trained future officers, and Hedges said he's proud to have been a part of it.

"We're really focused on producing leaders for life," he said. "I can think of no greater honor than being able to help just a little bit in laying the foundation for the future leaders of America and the professions of arms for potentially the next 30 to 50 years - that's what we did here this summer. We're producing leaders for life and gold bars are made right here at Fort Knox, Kentucky."