By: Kelsey Green / Photography: Ian Palmer
Every Thursday they don their uniform to prepare for the day ahead. Once a week these 100 cadets suddenly become highly visible among a civilian population, which includes over 38,000 other university students and another 90,000 local residents. They continuously hold themselves to a higher standard than their peers. A pride of the university and the community, these cadets are America’s future leaders.
Through lectures and leadership labs, cadets spend three years inside and outside of the classroom learning various aspects of leadership and immersing themselves in the Army’s traditions, values and basic military skills. Leadership labs allow cadets to take what they have learned in the classroom to the field and experience it firsthand. “There may be a week where we teach how to read a map, here’s how to use a compass, and then on Thursday when we go out in the woods here’s your map and compass. Go find the points,” says Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Felpel, professor of military science.
While lectures for the underclassmen can focus on a tactical skill that coincides with the lab for the week, many times lectures also focus on other lessons that encompass “life skills,” such as time management that they build on the entire time they are in the program. “In my case for the seniors, I am teaching them how to plan that training for the underclassman,” says LTC Felpel. “So as far as lectures go, yes, we teach some of the prep work for those labs, we also teach some things separate from some of the tactical stuff that we do.”
These teachings help prepare rising seniors for the “Super Bowl of a cadet’s career,” says LTC Felpel, what is currently known as the Leadership Development Assessment Course, LDAC. Cadets spend the summer between their junior and senior year in a 35 day assessment camp that stresses cadets and test their leadership abilities and potential. Evaluators observe cadets as they take turns leading squads (a group of 10 people), platoons (30 people) and companies (120 people). Along with theses evaluations, cadets also undergo physical training tests, weapons and land navigation trainings. They also spend time out in the field, having only what gear they carry to help them overcome obstacles and courses. Every skill and all their training is put to the test during this time. This assessment is a turning point in a cadet’s career in that is very important in determining what type of jobs and trainings the cadets will get upon graduation.
After their return from LDAC, the mode of training for the cadet changes. Cadets start learning how to lead others in an organization. “The underclassmen are in receive mode during their freshman and sophomore year,” says Major Trevor Wheless, professor of military science, while “the upperclassmen, especially the seniors, play a georgiaugazine.com 9
huge role in the planning of the actual training during the labs,” says LTC Kurt Felpel. “Freshman, sophomore and junior year is all about you and the cadre prepping you for LDAC. Once you become a senior, it’s not about you anymore; it’s about how are you training the underclass to prep for the LDAC.” While the upperclassmen do not “teach” the lowerclassmen, there is a “coach and mentor relationship” there between the cadets, says LTC Felpel.
Along with the lectures and labs, other opportunities present themselves to the cadets to keep them active within the program and help develop inter- and intrapersonal skills outside of the classroom. Within the battalion, a cadet may join Ranger Challenge, Color Guard or Scabbard and Blade. Ranger Challenge is the varsity sport of Army ROTC. Each year units from all over the nation come to compete against one another in a series of events that push cadets physically and mentally, and enhance leadership abilities and team cohesion. Color Guard protects and presents our nation’s colors at a variety of events including all formal Army ROTC events, UGA football games, and community events. This club reinforces the discipline aspect that ROTC strives to instill. Scabbard and Blade is the joint service Army and Air Force honors club. Open to only juniors and seniors, Scabbard and Blade fosters relationships with the community through service projects within Athens. While the club itself is open to only junior and seniors, these community service projects are open to all cadets. “Are they gonna make you a better leader? Maybe, maybe not. It’s not gonna affect you per se, but they are extra-curricular clubs, and the army is not looking for a one track individual. They are looking for a well-rounded individual,” says LTC Felpel.
Along with the support that Scabbard and Blade and the Color Guard provide to the community through their various events, the program holds two major community events each year to honor those that have been killed in action, a 5K in the fall and a golf tournament in the spring. The 5K is on or about 9/11 to honor two UGA cadets that have been killed in action, Ashley Henderson Huff and Noah Harris along with Joshua Reeves, not a former cadet but a young man with strong ties to UGA. “Those three families we invite back [for the run], and we take the proceeds we make from the fund and put them towards a scholarship in honor of those individuals,” says LTC Felpel.
While the program continues to produce influential leaders that impact our nation, Army ROTC also makes a significant contribution to the lives of the cadets, the university and our community. The ROTC programs help cadets in various ways, such as financially or personally. Like the Active Duty Scholarship, ROTC helps cadets pay for “essentially everything,” says Cadet Captain Shawn Kane, a senior management information systems major from Suwanee. So for many cadets it helps them make goals, like receiving a degree, possible when it may not have been before. It has also helped many cadets develop interpersonal relationships. “It has gotten us out there,” says Cadet Zach Conyers, a senior sociology major from Fort Rook, Ala. “We’ve had to work with other organizations. We’ve gone and talked at sorority chapters. It really gets you out there if you put yourself forward,” says Cadet Captain Conyers. “It’s what you put into it is what you get out. You can be as reserved and drawn off as you want. I’ve found the more you open up, the more you have a tight group of friends here [in the program],” says Cadet Captain Kane, “It’s helped me open up more as a person. I’ve started being able to communicate better.”
By developing and benefiting the cadet, the ROTC simultaneously gives back to the community. LTC Felpel says that, “We, [the ROTC program], impact the community by the quality of the individuals that come out of here. They make a good name for the university and the military, and I think it makes them proud to see those kinds of folks doing well and leading our nation after they come from the University of Georgia.”