By Matthew Langston
Leader’s Training Course
Foxtrot Company Cadets lined the road and stood in complete silence as they waited to move out. At 3:45 a.m. Thursday, the Cadets turned on their flashlights and started the final event of the Leader’s Training Course: the 6.2-mile road march.
The Cadets, with 35-pounds ruck sacks strapped to their back and carrying with their weapons and other equipment, started marching on flat terrain but were quickly faced with a series of lengthy, steep hills. Their breathing grew heavy and their scuffed across the grounds, but the Cadets pushed forward.
Staff Sgt. Karl Pesak said the goal of the road march is to get the Cadets acclimated to carrying a large load over a long distance, a task they might experience in a combat environment. As time went on during the march and some Cadets began to struggle with the challenge, it was his job as a drill sergeant to help them maintain their confidence and trudge ahead.
“We walk up and down within our respective platoons and if we see anybody falling back, we give them words of inspiration,” Pesak said.
As the company neared the halfway point, they had to descend the hill known “Agony” and its nearly 50 percent angle. At the bottom of the slope, Cadets stopped for a short break and were given Gatorade to help them refuel before getting back on the road.
Cadet Demarcus Rieves wished they had not taken a break because it disrupted his momentum.
“The hardest part of the ruck march was taking the break and then having to start up again,” the student at University of Arkansas at Monticello said.
After going down Agony, Cadets turned around and ascended the hill. Quickly, some began to fall behind as they hiked up it. Words of inspiration could be heard from drill sergeants and fellow Cadets to those who began to take a slower pace.
Cadet Donald Welch said the hill proved to be the toughest part of the march. Though not used to the terrain, Welch said he never felt like he needed to quit or slow down.
“It was challenging, but it wasn’t overwhelming,” said the student at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Ga.
As the Cadets closed in on the last mile, the company chants started. Rieves said the chants made him proud to be a member of Foxtrot Company and made him reflect on his time at LTC.
“If I was back home, I would never jump off a 50-foot wall or do anything of that nature,” he said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot of things I wouldn’t even attempt at home.”
Pesak said the march is one of the most challenging, physical events Cadets participate in at LTC. He said it is an honor for the Cadets who complete the entire march.
“For them, it’s a culmination of everything that has happened during the entire training cycle,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t marched that far before, especially with that type of equipment.”
Welch said he felt accomplished as he finished the march with the rest of his company. He said presentation is important and the company went back to the barracks looking strong, with their heads held high and their chests out.
“It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish,” Welch said. “We finished strong.”