OPINION: Training to lead

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Odds are, you’ve probably met an ROTC cadet while attending K-State. They come from a multitude of different majors for the prospect of gaining a commission as a second lieutenant in one of the many basic branches of the U.S. Army.

Whether it’s running in physical fitness uniforms through campus during the wee hours of the morning while most students are still asleep, or giving up a weekend per semester to conduct a field exercise on Fort Riley, cadets sacrifice a lot in order commit to the Army ROTC program.

The initial year of ROTC serves as a course on the basic soldier skills and introduction to what the Army is like. Following freshman year, cadets build on their skills and put them into practice during practical critical-thinking exercises. During their junior and senior years, cadets serve in various leadership positions within the battalion in preparation for their commissions as second lieutenants.

Cadets also participate in various labs that build confidence and teamwork, such as rappelling, as well as obstacle courses. Cadets are encouraged to participate in various extracurricular opportunities through ROTC.

During my two years as a cadet, I’ve ran the Army Ten-Miler in Washington D.C. twice; rucked the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands, New Mexico; served on color guard at K-State Athletic events and am involved in a tactics club known only as Recondo.

The Bataan Memorial Death March is a marathon in the middle of the desert with the option of running or walking with a 30-pound minimum ruck (the military’s version of a backpack) on your back. I can honestly say it’s the most physically demanding event I’ve ever done in my life.

I’ve also had the unique opportunity to visit with generals and other high-ranking staff serving in the Pentagon and throughout the world as a result of this experience.

K-State Army ROTC also offers Ranger Challenge and Ranger Buddy Competition for those who wish to test their teamwork and soldier skills in a competition between schools in the region. At its core, though, Army ROTC is about producing junior officers to lead soldiers.

Within the first four years of his or her career, a junior officer is tasked with more responsibility than some people will have in their entire careers.

Being a platoon leader is the first leadership position a second lieutenant will serve in, where they are responsible for 20-50 soldiers. Officers lead through their non-commissioned officers to train and develop soldiers to serve in their respective roles to ensure the successful execution of operations during deployments abroad. Officers are also tasked with developing plans and other roles while serving in a staff position.

Throughout their careers, Army officers serve in a wide variety of roles in order to preserve freedom and the American way of life.

Joel Blankenship is a sophomore in political science

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