Fort Knox welcomes first wave of ROTC cadets for summer courses

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U.S. Army Cadet Command
Cadets from around the country began arriving Wednesday at Fort Knox for the annual Leader’s Training Course, which places college students on the path to becoming future Army leaders.
Students comprising the first cycle—one of five this summer—officially begin training today.
In all, roughly 1,000 cadets will take part in the intense training this summer at Fort Knox, close to 30 percent more than the 772 who graduated in 2011.
The larger structure reflects U.S. Army Cadet Command’s success in recruiting. Cadets are deciding to be part of the program for a number of reasons, from a propensity to serve their country to educational benefits to career opportunities.
Regardless of the number seeking to acquire the skills that will position them to serve as Soldiers, the lessons learned at LTC, as the course is known, will be life-changing.
“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. Michael Blahovec, 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.”
This summer marks LTC’s 47th year. The five cadet companies cycling through the training course will consist of roughly 200 cadets each, with the last group graduating Aug. 3 on Brooks Field.
The students represent schools from as far away as Puerto Rico and Guam.
Like the Army and the country it serves, much has changed about LTC since the first 900 cadets showed up in 1965 for what was then called Basic Camp. Over the years, upward of 3,000 cadets have cycled through Fort Knox in a summer.
LTC, as it’s known today, 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 to 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 on campus to attend before his or her final two years on campus and, upon completion, enter the advanced course.
That first class encountered training similar to that of traditional basic training, although cadets had a portion of their instruction devoted to leadership. But the course centered on basic Soldier skills, such as rifle marksmanship, map and compass reading and physical training.
As times changed and the Army’s staffing needs diminished, so too did the number of students. And over the years, the course itself has undergone many significant changes and 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 Leader’s Training Course.
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 where cadets spend more time heading up squads and platoons and overseeing tactical activities.
The course is built in a progression, with the focus starting with Soldierization skills like drill and ceremony and military customs and progressing through individual skills to collective skills while placing cadets in leadership positions throughout.
More ROTC cadre were also added, from professors of military science brought in from campuses all across the country to newly-minted second lieutenants, who act as squad tactical officers and mentors to cadets. Cadets also receive frequent, individual feedback on their progress as leaders.
While the course has evolved over the years, it is by no means at the end of its progression. Every year the course is tweaked.
Organizing the Leader’s Training Course is a year-round mission. Scheduling training sites begins 18 months in advance, and choosing specific types of training begins in earnest the day after a course ends.
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.