FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- For one group of U.S. Military Academy cadets, an experience at Fort Jackson has played a major part in the type of officers these students will soon become.

The 15 cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., joined the Soldiers of Fort Jackson's 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment for three weeks of summer training recently.

Before cadets graduate from West Point and receive their commission as second lieutenants, they must complete several requirements, including Cadet Basic Training, a more advanced Cadet Field Training, a leadership detail and Cadet Troop Leadership Training.

During CTLT, cadets embed with an active duty Army unit and assume the duties of a platoon leader or executive officer. While at Fort Jackson, cadets worked with the Basic Combat Training cadre to enhance their individual leadership skills, learn about the relationship between officers and their NCOs, gain active-duty Army exposure, and enhance the new Soldiers' initial entry training. Cadets also had the opportunity to practice basic soldier skills such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, M-16 qualification, Combat Lifesaver Training and tactical road marches.

While every cadet accomplishes the same list of basic tasks, they can also claim a unique set of experiences. For the three cadets assigned to Company D, those experiences have been courtesy of the drill sergeants, cadre and Soldiers who call themselves the "Dragons."

As the acting platoon leaders for the 1st platoon "War Dawgs," the 3rd platoon "Assassins" and the 4th platoon "Outlaws," the cadets took ownership of their new Soldiers' transformations. The cadets helped conduct morning physical training sessions, which included runs with the company's elite runners, called "A-Train."

They also assisted in Advanced Rifle Marksmanship instruction, which included a night fire, using controlled pairs while engaging targets at close proximity and the new Basic Rifle Marksmanship strategy taught by the Asymmetric Warfare Group.

The instruction and leadership duties undertaken by the cadets provided them with relevant, real-world experience that mirrors their future duties.

But not all of the benefits occurred in controlled training environments; some of their most valuable education took place while simply talking with their drill sergeant counterparts. The knowledge and experience of the drill sergeants helped the cadets understand Army complexities that a field manual or textbook could never fully capture.

By bettering themselves as leaders and Soldiers, the West Point cadets took an important step in their professional development. They left Fort Jackson and 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment with a better appreciation of their role in the Army and the responsibility they will have to their Soldiers in one short year when they become commissioned officers.