Leader's Training Course
- By UVM ROTC
I’m a junior at Champlain College but I spend much of my time up at UVM because I am a non-degree student enrolled in the Army ROTC program. I joined ROTC my sophomore year of college with no prior military experience whatsoever and was a year behind my classmates, training-wise. I crammed and took both Military Studies 1 and 2 in an attempt to catch up. It went well, but I was recommended to attend a course held over the summer for incoming juniors called Leader’s Training Course, or, because the Army loves acronyms, “LTC.” LTC is for students looking to join ROTC their last two years of college, so it’s a “catch-up” course. It consolidates all the information you learn in the first two years of ROTC into four weeks, throws you into the strict standards of the military, and provides extensive field training.
When I say, ‘throws you into the strict standards of the military,’ I mean that when you arrive at Fort Knox from the Louisville airport, drill sergeants rush your bus yelling at you every step of the way. For the first week or so, everything you do is wrong. You and everyone around you are being ‘smoked’ for every and any little thing, and you do more pushups than you knew you were capable of. As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were told to line up, stand at ease and not make eye contact. Well, you learned about eye contact the first time you looked at one of the drill sergeants! These were the main source of smoke sessions for the first few days. Cadets would make eye contact with a drill sergeant and everyone would suffer because you work as a team and take the fall as a team. It’s all a mental test; they break you down to build you up. You learn quickly that resiliency is something of high importance in becoming an officer in the U.S. Army.
I was assigned to Bravo Company, 4th Platoon, 2nd Squad. We, as a platoon, were known as the “Wolfpack.” The first couple days consisted of being yelled at, doing in-processing work, getting equipment issued, and doing drill and ceremony. You pick up proper drill and ceremony real quick when you’re ‘dropped’ (made to do push-ups) as a platoon for every wrong move! After the in-processing was finished, we took the initial Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). We got through the push-ups and sit-ups and lined up for the final run when it started raining. Not long after that, it began to thunder and we were all rushed under a covered shelter; this is when we learned that a cadet last year had been killed by a lightning strike, so they were on high alert for storms, and at times were almost a little too careful, in my opinion. Kentucky has some crazy weather, and this became an almost everyday occurrence during the first week or so.
The APFT was rescheduled for the very next day and because of this, I was expecting my score to drop dramatically, but it hardly went down. After this, the real training began. After the first five days or so, cadets started to hold leadership positions and the drill sergeants began to take a step back. There was slightly less yelling and they were more willing to tell you what was right rather than only what was wrong and leaving you to figure out what correct was. The month seemed pretty long and we ran on barely any sleep the entire time so I can’t recount the events in order; days sort of blended together after a while. We did a day on a high-ropes course and climbing wall; we learned to paddle, capsize, and right a zodiac boat; we practiced day and night land navigation both in buddy-teams and alone; and we ran through a military obstacle course, which was one of my favorite training days. I ran through for my squad twice being our fastest female and came out 2 seconds behind the girl with the quickest time! As you always hear about Basic Training, we learned to take apart an M16, put it together, take it apart, put it together, take it apart, etc. We learned to clean it and finally we learned to shoot it. We were all required to “zero” with the M16 and then we practiced on the qualifying course, though we never got the results of this event. We took the Combat Water Survival Test (CWST, yet another acronym!), and learned to cross a stream using a rope and a Swiss seat. We rappelled off a 50-foot tower and were taught how to waterproof our rucksacks (“rucks”) and swim with them, but this event did not go as smoothly, and we all had soaking wet equipment for the next few days! We led our squad through a Field Leadership Reaction Course (FLRC) lanes, and spent many days around the barracks doing classroom training and drill. We had a day of Individual Movement Techniques, where we learned the low-crawl, high-crawl, bounding in buddy teams and then we put it all to use. There were artillery simulators going off and smoke everywhere and it really did get your heart rate up, though fortunately, no one was shooting at you. We took the final PT test around day 20 where I scored the second highest for females in my company, a few points behind the same girl who had beaten me at the obstacle course.
We finished out the training with three days of STX lanes. STX, or Situation Training Exercise, was the first experience we had at leading our squad through a simulated mission. It was basically a culmination of everything we had learned over the course on the month. By this point, our squad was pretty unified seeing that we were with each other all the time, and the lanes went relatively smoothly, and it felt great to put our training to use. It proved to us the extent of what we had learned over the last 20 or so days and how much it would help us in our future years of ROTC. The last day of training started with the abrupt 0130 wake up by Drill Sergeants. We were bussed with our rucks to somewhere almost off base and had to ruck-march back to our barracks. It was about 6.5 miles total, but there were some killer hills in there. Surprisingly, we had lost quite a few cadets along the way for some reason or other, not only during the ruck-march, but over the course of LTC as a whole. Crossing a finish line has never felt so good. There was a short informal ceremony where they played that extremely motivating song from the recruiting commercials on TV. Then we got a salute from our Drill Sergeants who had been with us screaming from the start, and a certificate from our Lieutenants stating we had graduated from LTC. This was it - we had done it!
The last 5 days were all out-processing with some physical training and rucking mixed in. The day before graduation was Family Day where my parents flew down from New Jersey to spend the day with me and watch my company graduate the following day. At first formation on the morning of graduation, cadets were recognized for their outstanding achievements over the course of LTC. Cadets were called up by the Commanding Officer and presented awards in the form of a coin. Out of the 60 or so females in my company, I got awarded top female of Bravo Company, which caught me completely off guard but is probably one of my biggest accomplishments. We were then shipped to the graduation field. To me, the graduation ceremony was not as exciting an the small informal ceremony we had had after the 6.5 mile ruck-march, but it felt good to walk with all these cadets who had gone through so much with each other.
LTC was a great way to find out that I am fully committed to the Army and that this is what I want to do with my life after college. It’s a full submersion into the ways of the army and it gives a taste of what your future soldiers went through during their own initial Basic Training (although nowhere near as long). I have a lot of respect for NCOs and the Army as a whole coming out of LTC. I know the Soldier’s Creed like the back of my hand, and have internalized the Army Values. I know my way around an M16, and am a lot more comfortable being in a leadership role. I literally am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, and trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I am on my way to becoming an American Soldier.
CDT Andrea Swett