FORT RILEY, Kan. (April 20, 2012) -- Universities in the Reserve Officers Training Corps' 3rd "Black Hawk" Brigade gathered at Fort Riley, April 12 for a four-day, field training exercise, or FTX, designed to develop the cadets' leadership skills.

More than 400 cadets from the University of Kansas, Pittsburg State University, University of Central Missouri, Missouri Western State University and Kansas State University participated in the training.

The Joint-University FTX involved four training exercises, the field leadership reaction course, confidence course, squad tactical exercise lanes and land navigation. Each exercise focused on forcing the cadets to face and overcome challenges and excel in leadership roles. Cadets rotated into various leadership positions like squad leader and company commander and were evaluated based on their performance in each position.

"Raters also look for creativity, original ideas, innovation, delegation and proper conduct between individuals," K-State Cadet Capt. Ryan Gardner said. "Completing an obstacle is only a plus, but not necessary for the cadet to receive a very good evaluation."

One of the most challenging aspects of the Joint-University FTX for some cadets was the Confidence Course featuring obstacles like the 40-foot tall Tough One wall, Low Belly Under, Weaver and Bridge of No Return. Gardner said the obstacle course is designed to build the cadet's confidence, focusing on helping cadets overcome any number of fears including a fear of heights.

"My personal challenge is heights," MWSU Cadet Steven Eddings said. "I just take a breath, and I focus on it -- just one more step."

During the Situational Training Exercise lanes, cadets were expected to lead their squad through tactical scenarios to see how they would react under pressure.

"STX lanes is graded tactically on how well they accomplish a mission," Gardner said.

Cadets also practiced day and night land navigation to instill confidence in navigating from point A to point B using a map, compass, protractor and a red lens flashlight for night movements.

"These are college kids -- not privates, not majors -- they get a more realistic view of what the military is really like," said Lt. Col. Scott Bridegam, professor of Military Science, K-State.

The Joint-University FTX prepared cadets to participate in the Leadership Development and Assessment Course, or LDAC, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., which is the real test for cadets, according to Gardner. The LDAC summer camp is normally attended by cadets between their junior and senior years of college. The 30-day course incorporates a wide range of subjects designed to develop and evaluate each cadet's leadership ability.

"LDAC determines the future job positions a cadet will have in the Army. They need to do well for this reason," said Craig Hager, Military Science instructor and training officer, K-State.

ROTC Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Johnson said the battalion's visit to Fort Riley opened his eyes to the Army's next generation of leaders.

"(The FTX) assignment has been very rewarding and sobering all at the same time," he said. "These are the future leaders of our U.S. Army."

Participating universities will receive evaluations from the Joint-University FTX. The evaluations will show any improvements needed within the schools' ROTC program.