"Beast wasn't as bad as I predicted it to be, but I would be lying if I said it was easy," New Cadet Charles Willis said. Willis sat atop Victor Constant Ski Slope Aug. 8 as one of the 1,276 new cadets of the Class of 2020 who completed the 12-mile Marchback, a culmination of the six-week rigorous basic training that the new cadets have braved since R-Day on June 27."It was a very difficult thing, we all endured different hardships," Willis noted of his six-week experience. "For others it might have been the intensity, maybe following directions, or keeping up physically, but for me, it was homesickness."Willis' mother and brother are at home in Pennsylvania while his father is serving overseas in Afghanistan."I've been receiving letters from him and I've been sending letters to him," Willis said of his dad. "The last time I actually spoke to him was the Monday of the second week and that was during my two-minute phone call."Willis knows his father is proud of him but hopes to show him how much he's grown up this summer."Looking back on it now, I've definitely developed a lot since day one," Willis said. "Now I have the confidence to do a lot of the military and cadet stuff that we're required to do... you learn a lot of the basics of being a Soldier."Those "basics" include rifle marksmanship, the gas chamber, land navigation, repelling and mountain climbing, to name a few."First detail was learning more about how to be a good cadet, learning discipline and respect and really helping us change from civilian life to cadet life, and that was great," New Cadet Amy Ziccarello explained of Beast. "Second detail was a little more relaxed as we were out in the field almost the entire time. It was fantastic being able to be at Buckner for the twelve days, it was a cool experience."Ziccarello said that Beast allowed her to face her fears."The best moment was after we got to the top of the rock climbing, that was a big thing for me," she said. "I don't really have any rock climbing experience and that was really cool to do and I'm not a huge fan of heights and I was really proud of myself after I was able to do that."
Aside from overcoming obstacles, Ziccarello stated that it was during second detail that she formed a lot of friendships."We got to do a lot of amazing things like shooting machine guns, throwing grenades, launching missiles, live fire and team-based things," Ziccarello said. "I got a lot closer to the other new cadets that were here and we really learned the value of teamwork and had to rely on each other."New Cadet Adam Hudler has enjoyed his transition to becoming a cadet."It's very different than the civilian world but exciting, still very challenging, but the new standards compel you to do your best in everything and so that's what makes you feel a part of the atmosphere here, all of the camaraderie," Hudler said. "I've become very good friends with everybody in my platoon."Hudler stated that his favorite components of training included the qualification range and the repel course, but noted that the most memorable part was also the most difficult."The most challenging part was the FTX Session 1 when we were trapped in torrential downpour over 24 hours," he said.Hudler said that despite the challenges, the whole experience was "rewarding.""It was strangely fun," New Cadet Bryson Hodges said of Cadet Basic Training. "Every day seemed really long, but in the end, it seemed really short and I'm glad I went through it all. It was hard being away from my family for so long, it was hard without my cellphone, MRE's stink, but overall, I'm very glad to have learned the things I learned."Hodges, along with most of the other cadets, had one priority upon completing Marchback: "As soon as I have my cellphone, I'm going to call my parents."