Operation Agile Leader (OAL) is the Cadet Command answer to COVID-19. Instead of bringing thousands of Cadets to Fort Knox, Ky. for annual Cadet Summer Training (CST), Army ROTC Cadets are training across the country in small clusters to protect the health and integrity of the force.
OAL was conceptualized to make the more than 30-day immersive summer training event into a list of requirements that can be accomplished locally. Alongside changes to ROTC curriculum in the classroom, OAL presented the opportunity for brigades to hold local CST-like training events.
With each of Cadet Command’s eight brigades having the jurisdiction to build specific requirements for OAL, 7th Brigade decided to hold a mini-CST on Fort Knox for its schools in the region of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio as well as any Cadets from other brigades that live within 7th Brigade territory. The event consisted of three regiments that integrated Cadets from different participating battalions into smaller control groups that would help mitigate risk of COVID-19 as well as allow for stronger leadership opportunities.
Safety measures regarding COVID-19 were at the forefront of planning the event, and also were taken into consideration during each moment of training.
“When the planning was built for this, we assumed, with Cadet Summer Training being cancelled, by the time we did this later, that the COVID-19 environment would be more on the down slope,” said Col. Brent Clemmer, Army ROTC 7th Brigade Commander, “That didn’t actually occur as we thought it would, so even the week before we brought Cadets here, we implemented several additional risk mitigation measures to make this as safe as possible.”
Every Cadet, cadre, Department of Army civilian and contractor participating in OAL at Fort Knox or interacting with staff conducting the training was tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at Fort Knox. 7th Brigade was supported by the 101st Airborne Division and 19th Engineer Battalion medics in testing efforts, and were able to turn around testing results for hundreds of participants in mere hours.
Cadets, cadre and staff were also screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 twice daily or as they entered the tactical operations center.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the Army and Cadet Command and team Knox for giving us some of these extra steps to make sure this training is safe for our cadre, our contractors, our DA civilians and for our Cadets,” said Clemmer.
Not all brigades and task forces conducted their field training on military posts with COVID-19 testing ability, however. 3rd Brigade’s Task Force Marseilles was held on Camp Atterbury, Ind. and brought together 175 Army ROTC Cadets from eight schools in central and northern Illinois. With no available testing on post, cadre and staff embraced much stricter guidelines for mitigation and prevention of a COVID-19 outbreak. Cadets were also asked to quarantine for the 14 days leading up to the commencement of the field training exercise on Camp Atterbury.
“We asked to Cadets to go into quarantine on the 19th [of July] and screen themselves for symptoms each day,” said Major Deanna Love, assistant professor of military science at University of Illinois at Chicago, “Cadre would frequently check in with Cadets to find any that had indicators of COVID-19. Cadets that were flagged were encouraged to go get tested, and that’s how we found out, during the quarantine period, that some were sick. So we mitigated along the way. Any that tested positive did not attend camp.”
Throughout training at Task Force Marseilles, mask wearing, social distancing and daily temperature checks were enforced, as well as thorough sanitizing of transportation, classrooms and common areas used during the week.
Each brigade is taking different steps in tandem with the guidance that brigade nurses and surgeons have developed over the summer leading up to Operation Agile Leader. But beyond mitigating the risk of furthering the spread of COVID-19, brigades kept mitigating anxiety around meeting commissioning requirements at the forefront of planning.
“It’s nice to know that everyone here has been tested, and that everyone that’s here is negative,” said Cadet Tristan Pitzer, Morehead State University, who attended his OAL field training exercise at Fort Knox, “It gives me a little more peace of mind.”
For Cadets who trained at Camp Atterbury, Love reiterated that “We are encouraging our Cadets to [get rapid tested upon leaving training], and within the following 72 hours, do another rapid test in order to have 2 negative tests and peace of mind to reintegrate.”
OAL will be held throughout the country over the course of the academic year in order for this year’s MSIVs to be commissioned and at their respective Basic Officer Leaders Course on time. While the most visible part of OAL will be during the field training exercises, the operation comprises rigorous curriculum, leadership building and physical training for Cadets to participate in with their battalion throughout the academic year. In the end, Army ROTC Cadets will commission as 2nd Lieutenants on time and as prepared as ever to be strong and effective leaders of the U.S. Army.
Learn more about the training and curriculum that comprises Operation Agile Leader at #OAL. Find photos and videos of #OAL on DVIDS and Flickr, or follow #OperationAgileLeader on Instagram and #OAL on Twitter.