By: Mariyah Wojcik
FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY (June 15, 2015) – In the course of a radical paradigm shift, it is often vital to consult those minds that came before. As fundamental changes to Cadet Summer Training (CST) take effect, retired Army officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) are invited to participate in the Cadet Command Strategic Advisory Board, an annual meeting to discuss the past, present, and future of CST at Fort Knox.
The structure of CST has transformed beyond a change of program acronyms, as the basic goals to ensure all desired outcomes have shifted to encompass more direct officer training. Changes include situation-based exam questions and more individual and team leadership opportunities for each cadet.
“CLC is now seen as the beginning to officership,” said Cadet Command’s Maj. Gen. Peggy Combs, who facilitated this meeting of the minds. “The cadre are fired up and ready, and the cadets have a great attitude. We will take all the feedback we receive today, discuss how it aligns with our plan moving forward, and implement it.”
U.S. Army retired participants at the morning roundtable discussion included former U.S. Army Cadet Command (USACC) Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Howard, Command Sgt. Maj. Major Washington, Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith, Maj. Gen. Wallace Arnold, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, Lt. Gen. Dennis Cavin, Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, and Brig. Gen. Myrna Hennrich Williamson.
While CST is now conducted at Fort Knox and is a top priority, the overall mission surrounding ROTC is to develop competent, exceptional U.S. Army officers. To uphold this goal, topics discussed included the relationship between ROTC and host universities, developing intellectual talent among cadets through a possible, more expansive core curriculum, and achieving diversity in the ranks of officers being commissioned.
“We need both cadet development and cadre development together,” said Brig. Gen. Brian Mennes, who gave the CST overview. “A great plan is nothing without execution. It is so important that folks like us create a pathway and roll together.”
A major point in the discussion included academic opportunities available to cadets, and what can be done to improve these opportunities.
“Getting an internship is critical for a cadet,” said Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Myrna Hennrich Williamson. “But it is a shame that many cadets don’t take them because they are not paid and they can’t afford them. We need to work with schools and businesses to find a solution that will make it easier for cadets to take advantage of these experiences.”
Williamson is distinguished as the fifth woman to achieve the Brig. Gen. rank, as well as the first and only Commanding Gen. of an ROTC region when she was appointed to serve the third ROTC region, in Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1984. Williamson retired in 1989 and went on to become the Deputy Director of Military Personnel on the Army staff at the Pentagon.
In addition, the goal of drawing in a diverse pool of future officers led to a vigorous discussion about just how to improve the numbers in this area.
“There’s been some progress,” said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Benjamin Freakley. “But the officers still don’t mirror the enlisted Soldiers in terms of diversity. We need to look at younger college students who may not have the means to pay for school for all four years, and may not have considered Army ROTC, and discuss options with them.”
Freakley currently serves as the professor for the Practice of Leadership for Arizona State University’s ROTC program and as special advisor for leadership initiatives to the ASU president. He has 36 years of military experience, and previously served as Commanding General for U.S. Army Accessions Command.
Current USACC officers who were present at the Strategic Advisory Board gained new perspective on the big-picture goals and where improvements could be made.
“A lot has changed since I’ve been in ROTC,” said Col. Sean Gainey, incoming Deputy Commanding Officer (DCO). “I think it was a good discussion and important points were raised. The senior members present were a great added benefit.”
Maj. Gen. Combs summed up the discussion by instilling the room with the perfect metaphor for the goals of USACC this summer and in the future.
“Before we can think outside of the box, we need to know what’s inside the box,” said Combs. “Take existing knowledge, pull it apart, apply it to a completely new situation they’ve never seen before, and have them come up with a new, different solution. This is the new CST.”
Members of the Strategic Advisory Board had the opportunity to visit Cadet Rifle Training Preventive Maintenance Inspection (CRT PMI) training. Here cadets learn marksmanship skills before moving on to live-fire ranges.
“This is a hands-on class,” said Lt. Col. Chad Callis, the Officer in Charge at the Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM) Pit training site. “This training directly leads to practical use.”
The retired officers and NCOs present stood transfixed by the rotating stations the cadets arrived at, and the level of expertise that was available to them.
“It is interesting to see how training is progressing along with the Army moving forward,” said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Howard Bromberg. “It’s amazing to see these young, active-duty Soldiers training future 2nd Lts.. These are quality guys.”
Bromberg retired in 2014, after an incredible 37 years of Army experience. He previously served as the U.S. Army’s 46th Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel at the Pentagon, and, previously, the Commanding General at Fort Bliss, Texas.
The final event of the day allowed the members of the Strategic Advisory Board to have lunch with current cadets. These cadets are the future of the Army that the decisions of this board have an immediate effect upon.
“I remember my first lab as a cadet,” said Cadet Jake Haligren of the University of Maine at Orono. “I was pulling security and I dove headfirst into the snow, it was winter up in Maine, and I had no clue what was going on, even after receiving our orders. My second year the other cadets and I noticed changes in instruction and we found ourselves learning more. All these changes have built up and this is where we want to be. The new Army learning model is proving effective. I know I’m getting excited about it because when I go back to my unit I am going to bring along what I have learned here this summer to teach our cadets in a whole new way. I think we are going to see some drastic changes in the next year.”
Cadet Garin Gray, who attends Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, shared his views of CST and changes on campus thus far.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I put in for this summer,” said Gray. “What I have found is that they’re trying to create leaders that aren’t going to sit here and take a PowerPoint and click it to let people read it. Instead, cadre are teaching by asking open-ended questions and cadets can think for themselves and answer questions about why something happens. Creating better ideas than what might be taught to them makes this more of a developmental thing rather than simply getting information drilled into your forehead.”
As the focus of CST shifts to foster the cadets’ problem solving skills, it is evident that the suggestions and knowledge gleaned from the experience of the members of the Strategic Advisory Board are immeasurably valuable, and that the top-notch training at Fort Knox will continue its tradition of excellence in the years to come.