By Matthew Langston
Leader’s Training Course
Leader’s Training Course Cadets are tested daily as part of their leader development. But those Cadets haven’t been the only ones challenged from a leadership standpoint.
As part of a pilot program this summer that ended last week, 20 third-year ROTC college students were brought to the course and placed in the role of squad leaders, giving them a chance to polish their teaching and leadership abilities for a month before heading to more advanced training at the Leader Development and Assessment Course.
The contracted Cadets taught the LTC Cadets on different subjects in the company area. While in the field, their tasks included making sure squads were in the correct uniform and showed up at the right place at the right time. Once at the training sight, they took on a leadership role as they went through the training with the LTC Cadets.
The program is the idea of Cadet Command’s commanding general, Maj. Gen. Jeff Smith, and is an initiative to enhance senior-level Cadet development by placing Cadets in leadership positions.
With the selected Cadets being top performers in their collegiate programs, they represented a cross-section of schools. They chose to attend to get extra leadership experience, something Lt. Col. Tim Farmer, the company tactical officer of Charlie Company, said will give them a larger audience than what they may have experienced before.
“They are used to getting up in front of eight or nine people, but in some instances here, they could be getting up in front of the whole platoon or even larger size groups of 40 or 50 people,” Farmer said.
Farmer said the Cadets gained knowledge at LTC in leadership tasks, helping them to perform well in future endeavors. Anytime they got the chance to lead, inspire, motivate and manage, the better off they would be.
“These 20 have received on-the-job experience and training that definitely doesn’t hurt them when they go to LDAC,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, they’ve all been putting good effort into it and they should get a lot of great benefit before they go out to LDAC.”
As the contracted Cadets are only 12 to 15 months ahead of the LTC students, Lt. Col. Brian Slack, chief of training for LTC, believes the close age difference played a role in the interactions between the groups.
“It’s a good leadership development environment for them,” he said. “They are closest in age group to the LTC Cadets, so there is an immediate connection.”
That connection was felt by Cadet Justin Valentine of the University of Cincinnati. He said the junior Cadets were the middle ground between LTC Cadets and drill sergeants.
“It seemed to really help out the new Cadets,” Valentine said. “They had a person to go to between us and the drill sergeants, which made them a little more comfortable.”
The contracted Cadets had nine leadership tasks they were expected to know — such as drill and ceremony, physical training and uniform and rank structure — and had to be able to execute a class on those topics to LTC Cadets. They were to train for the classes and then present the information to their platoon tactical officer and senior drill sergeants in rehearsal form, as if they were presenting to the Cadets. If deemed sufficient, they could proceed with the class. If not, they were mentored by until able to teach the class, or the task was returned to the drill sergeants to be taught.
Although weary about teaching classes, Valentine became more comfortable with the material by remembering that the LTC Cadets would be soaking up all the information he presented to them. He said practicing to teach the information helped him become confident to actually teach it to others, something he said was different than simply understanding it.
“You can learn something and know it,” he said. “But to teach something is completely different.”
Some problems with the program were identified in a series of after action reports, held separately with the contracted Cadets and drill sergeants.
The pilot program started with Alpha Company and proved to not be what the Cadets expected. Instead of starting as squad leaders as was the initial intent, they were thrown into the role of drill sergeants and other positions for which they were not sure how to react.
“In the beginning, it led us to only this NCO scenario when we’re trying to become officers,” said Jenneffer Gonzalez, one of the program participants. “It kind of distracted us from what our goal is at LDAC.”
Gonzalez, a student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, said in Alpha Company, she and her fellow juniors were in a position where they were correcting Cadets on their facing movements and positions instead of being involved with planning and making sure equipment was issued and was where it needed to be. Another point of contention was the notice some of the juniors received before participating.
“They didn’t really have any prep time in terms of being ready,” Farmer said.
Another issue was the lack of communication between what was supposed to be known by the contracted Cadets to teach other Cadets. Some of them complained they were given little to no prep time before having to teach classes on subjects of which they knew nothing about themselves, such as sexual harassment/assault response and prevention and preventative medicine.
Amid the confusion, a decision was made to to reset the program and restart it with Charlie Company.
Although data from the after action reports and surveys taken by the contracted Cadets and cadre has not been completely calculated, the process of identifying solutions has begun. During the next couple of months, Cadet Command will review the data and make recommendations to the commanding general. Following that, Slack believes the command will be reaching out to schools and giving them a list of expected tasks with instructions during the upcoming fall semester.
The ultimate goal is to expand the program to include juniors in all LTC companies and at all levels of leadership. No timetable for that integration has been set.
One solution is to better define a curriculum that would aid the incoming Cadets in understanding exactly what they need to know and be able to teach long before they arrive at LTC.
“Before the (Cadets) show up here, the command owes them some preparation so that they understand the tasks that they’re going to have to train and they get some blocks of instruction in that,” Slack said. “That’s what we’ve got to do a better job at.”
The credit received by the juniors for participation in the pilot program is still being discussed. Other Cadets would have had the chance to go to programs such as Air Assault School and receive credit, before or after attending LDAC.
Even after a few bumps, Gonzalez said she will leave with a positive experience. She said she has become more confident in her skills, realizing how important she is and how much information she actually knows.
The LTC training taught her how to work with the many different personalities and to always be prepared.
“It’s helping me be more resilient to changes,” she said. “You always have to have a contingency.”