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Knox’s CST producing agile, adaptive leaders

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By MAJ. GEN. PEGGY COMBS

Former commander

Fort Knox and Cadet Command

When most Americans hear the name Fort Knox they immediately associate it with gold. That is a perfectly understandable response; since our nation’s reserves of that precious metal are entrusted here for safe-keeping. But Fort Knox performs a vital service that goes far beyond the task of housing America’s gold supply. It produces an equally precious commodity—the agile and adaptive leaders America’s Army needs in an uncertain world.

This summer approximately 10,000 Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets will be travelling to Fort Knox. An additional 5,000 ROTC cadre will also be in attendance to ensure these future officers have a world-class training experience. The event that brings them here, known as Cadet Summer Training, ranks among the premier training activities the Army conducts annually. Planning for this significant increase in the population of Fort Knox has been ongoing for many months.

The goal of this immense effort is to provide ROTC-trained officers to the total Army who can thrive in an ambiguous and complex world. The collective training and leadership development these cadets will undergo this summer are vital components in their process of earning a commission. CST gives cadets an unparalleled opportunity to display and hone leadership skills in a tactical environment. Under the watchful eye of their ROTC cadre, each cadet will be thoroughly trained in a number of key areas. Their physical fitness and mental agility will be pushed to the limit. And their leadership skill will be carefully developed to ensure they possess the strength of character, mental toughness and resolve required to lead others in any circumstance.

In Cadet Command, we take the task of developing the next generation of Army leaders—those destined to lead our forces in 2025 and beyond—quite seriously. It is for that reason, we maintain the highest standards in terms of the rigor and safety of all our activities. As part of our ongoing efforts to enhance training, this year we are making some significant changes. To enhance realism, gone are the days when most training is conducted by individual committees in a “station-type” environment. That approach to training has given way to a more fully immersive environment in which Cadets must prove they are adaptive leaders by solving complex problems in a tactical setting. Cadre facilitate the overall training experience under a mobile training team concept that ensures realism and directly supports the missions being conducted. The only traditional committees in place during Cadet Summer Training 2016 will be charged with conducting basic rifle marksmanship, call for fire and confidence activities.

Throughout history it has been shown leaders and units must be prepared for sustained operations under tough conditions. For that reason, this year we are instituting training scenarios in which cadets will operate in company zones for 13 days. During that entire period, they will be engaged in combined arms maneuvers and wide area security missions. Activities such as this provide invaluable practical leadership experiences not easily duplicated on the college campus.

This summer has particular significance within the Army ROTC community. In June at events at the Pentagon and on Fort Knox, we will pause to recognize the centennial of the formal establishment of ROTC. Since it came into existence in 1916, the Army ROTC program has produced two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an astronaut, and seven Army Chiefs of Staff. Among its graduates are two former secretaries of state and a sitting Supreme Court justice. The overall quality of the men and women attending CST 2016 is superb. It is reasonable to believe they will prove as successful as those who proceeded them.

In the days ahead, many residents of our area will have the opportunity to interact with these cadets in the airport, local shops, places of entertainment and restaurants. As you get to know them better, I am certain you will share my enthusiasm. You will find that they are truly remarkable examples of youth at their best. n