Army cadets train
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Army cadets train
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Army cadets train
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Every year the Army makes brand-new second lieutenants, whose job it becomes to lead American Soldiers. About 6,500 young men and women will become Army officers this year, most of them through the Army’s ROTC programs at colleges and universities around the country.

The U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Leader Development and Assessment Course, also known as Operation Warrior Forge, is held each summer from June to August at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The course is an Army-directed prerequisite for commissioning, and is the single point of common training and assessment for every ROTC cadet who hopes to become an officer.

“We know that the leaders we develop here could be leading Soldiers in combat within 12 months of being commissioned,” said Col. Charles Evans, commander of the course and of Cadet Command’s 8th Brigade, which is headquartered at Lewis-McChord. Evans is responsible for the yearlong planning and execution cycle of LDAC.

“We take our responsibility for the development of future officers very seriously, and we understand how it contributes to the Army’s mission,” Evans said. “The course sets leadership standards for the future Army officer corps. This is an important function for the sustainment of the institutional Army that reinforces the reason this is an Army-level mission.”

Packed with Army doctrine-based training and assessments, LDAC is principally focused on developing young leaders and ensuring those who are about to become lieutenants are qualified to do so. The event is a decisive element of the future Army leader’s career.

Lieutenant Col. Brian Rogers sees that each cadre and staff member undergoes a validation process, so the entire supporting cast has an appreciation for what cadets experience. Rogers, formerly a professor of military science at the University of Washington in Seattle, is the chief of training and runs the planning cell for the mission.

More than 3,500 cadre and staff members support the course across the bustling 90,000-acre military base. The support teams comprise leaders from across the Army: active duty, Reserve, National Guard, civil service employees and civilian contractors. In addition, dozens of agencies at Joint Base Lewis-McChord provide crucial resources to support the training.

“LDAC provides our Army the opportunity to assess and evaluate leadership performance and potential,” Rogers said. “The leader development process we use involves goal-oriented training in both technical and leadership skills, along with assessments and constructive feedback.

“Lessons learned during each assessment are used to redefine goals and structure future training for each cadet. Cadre within Cadet Command are trained in this process, maximizing their ability to coach and mentor cadets to continuous achievement, resulting in a professional, technically competent apprentice Army officer who possesses the self-confidence necessary to adapt on the modern battlefield,” Rogers added.

In all, more than 7,100 cadets will attend LDAC this summer, the largest number since the course’s inception. Cadets come from more than 1,300 colleges and universities nationwide, and reflect the diversity of the country.

As a result of the variety of Army ROTC entry options, cadets coming to LDAC range in age from 18 to 24. Some are only one year out of high school, while others are prior enlisted Soldiers who are seasoned combat veterans. Some are freshmen; some are advanced degree students. Most are between their junior and senior years of college. Cadets who have met all other degree and commissioning requirements may find LDAC to be their final hurdle before becoming lieutenants, and they may be commissioned on the parade field during the LDAC graduation ceremony.

The course also instills a sense of accomplishment and confidence in the cadets’ ability to lead, and is one of the earliest experiences of true esprit de corps for these future Soldiers.

Having the support of battle buddies throughout the mental and physical stress of the LDAC is priceless, according to cadets. That support propelled Caleb Pearl across obstacles he may have mentally shied away from on his own. Pearl, from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., finished LDAC in 2010.

“Every time I started to doubt myself or get psyched out, I leaned on my team and they supported me"clapping and shouting and encouraging me,” Pearl said. “It gave me the confidence to grab my gear and keep moving.”

Jeremy O’Bryan works at U.S. Army Cadet Command.


Consider the Leader’s Training Course an incubator:

Schools from around the country put in impressionable students with an interest in the military, and what emerges, after a month of nurturing, are motivated cadets poised to be future Army leaders.

This summer marks the 46th anniversary of the incubation process at Fort Knox, Ky., a process renowned as one of the world’s best leadership development programs. Since 1965, the course has instilled the institutional military knowledge that forms the foundation for a lifetime of leadership.

Like the Army and the country it serves, much has changed since the first 900 cadets showed up for what was then called Basic Camp.

“Students take away from this skills they can apply not only in a military career, but also in the civilian world: time management, organization and self-discipline,” said Col. Eric Winkie, the LTC commander. “These are traits they can apply in all walks of life, as a student and as a person. They take away more than just military training.”

The first wave of college students looking to become Army officers arrives in early June for the start of the annual course.

Some 700 men and women are expected to train at the post during the summer as part of the program put on by the Army ROTC. Four groups of roughly 175 cadets each will cycle through the course over several weeks, with the last group graduating July 28.

The students represent schools from across the country, coming from as far away as Puerto Rico and Guam.

This summer’s attendance will be smaller than usual, but the course remains pivotal in developing the Army’s future leaders.

Known today as LTC, the course was born from the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964. The legislation aimed to beef up officer candidate rolls and attract higher-quality prospects by offering incentives to join the program.

Perhaps most notable were scholarships and larger subsistence allowances for cadets in the ROTC advanced course. But the package also introduced an abbreviated curriculum option for students who did not enroll in ROTC as freshmen but later developed an interest in the program, opening a new market that included junior and community college students.

Congress’ backing authorized 5,500 two- and four-year scholarships, hiked the cadet monthly subsistence allowance from roughly $27 to $50 and established a two-year ROTC program. The shortened program paved the way for LTC, creating a six-week basic camp for students who did not complete the basic ROTC course before their final two years on campus and, who could, upon completion, enter the advanced course.

That first class in 1965 encountered training similar to traditional basic training, although cadets had a portion of their instruction devoted to leadership. The course centered on basic Soldier skills such as rifle marksmanship, map and compass reading and physical training.

While nearly 3,000 cadets once attended the course in a single summer, as the Army’s staffing needs diminished, so did the number of students. Over the years, the course has been retooled to produce stronger officer candidates. The basic course became Camp Challenge in the early 1980s. That moniker endured for two decades until it changed again in 2002 to the LTC.

The name, officials say, is a truer reflection of the summer offering. The focus of the course, now 29 days long, has changed from basic Soldier skills to leadership; cadets spend more time heading up squads and platoons and overseeing tactical activities.

As the director of training for LTC in 2002 and 2003, retired Col. Robert Frusha was involved in many of the changes that shaped the current training. His mission was to make LTC more engaging.

Before the course modifications, Frusha said the training was “bland and unexciting.” As a result, many cadets left without signing on to ROTC. The goal was to strike a balance.

“Don’t make it kiddy-camp, but don’t make it ‘basic training’ hard,” Frusha said. That was the idea.

A major change was the addition of the six-day field training exercise known as Bold Leader, where cadets spend three nights outdoors and perform situational training exercises.

The course is progression-based. It begins with training in areas like drill and ceremony and military customs. Cadets then advance to individual skills then collective skills while being placed in leadership positions throughout.

More ROTC cadre were also added, including professors of military science from across the country and newly minted second lieutenants, who serve as squad tactical officers and mentors. Cadets also receive frequent, personalized feedback on their progress.

The first year after the changes went into effect, contracting rates (the rates at which cadets sign contracts to serve as Army officers) climbed above 71 percent. They have stayed in that range ever since.

Organizing the LTC is a year-round mission. Training site scheduling begins 18 months in advance, and choosing specific types of training begins in earnest the day after a course ends. Organizers use after-action reviews to evaluate positives and negatives and how best to improve the program.

Although LTC is designed to replicate the training a student would have received on campus their freshman and sophomore years, it goes far beyond the traditional program to give cadets an experience unlike any other.

Steve Arel works at U.S. Army Cadet Command.