By: Emily Mulcahey
Two hundred and forty-seven cadets stood at attention on Saturday morning as they began their Cadet Summer Training (CST) graduation ceremony. These cadets are part of the Cadet Initial Entry Training (CIET) program at Fort Knox, Ky., and have spent a month in the suffocating heat anticipating the day they would see their families. For many of the families and friends in the stands that morning, it was the first time they had ever even set foot on a military base. CIET is largely a lateral entry program, a way for young college students to test the ROTC waters before they join. Two hundred and forty-seven cadets arrived with the third regiment CIET, and two hundred and forty-seven graduated.
The majority of these cadets are sophomores and juniors in college, putting them at about twenty years old. They are signing up for a job that elicits no fame, no glory, and minimal acknowledgement. People won’t buy tickets to see them at work, won’t ask for their autograph, won’t know them by name. At twenty years old, these cadets are more than okay with that. They simply have one ambition: to join the greatest team in the world.
“It’s kind of what I’ve known and what I’ve grown up with, so it’s always been in the back of my mind,” said Cadet Nick Manning, student at Virginia Military Institute.
Manning’s parents were both in the army; his mother as a retired Major and his father serves currently as a Colonel. His mother, Amy Manning, also commissioned through ROTC. This has always been his plan. While his parents are proficient in their knowledge of the Army, that does not deter their pride at their son’s achievement, and happiness in the path he has chosen.
“Having gone through ROTC,” Amy Manning commented, “and now my son going through ROTC, it’s just amazing to see how it’s changed over the years and how they’ve developed, and the good things that are coming out of it.”
Cadet Daniel Verderber of the University of Wyoming is the direct product of some of those good things. Having two years of ROTC under her belt already, she was able to apply that to her CST experience.
“It was great for me because there were a lot of people who had no idea what they were doing,” Verderber said, “so it really helped me with my leadership skills because I was really able to teach them things that I had already learned. They could look to me for knowledge, and I loved it. It was awesome.”
While the ROTC route is certainly not for everyone, the prospect of CST alone is enough to steer people away, Verderber wanted it to be known that her experience this summer was invaluable, and encourages others to jump in with both feet.
“I think it’s always worth a try,” she smiled. “You never know, you might love it. There are great people here, and it might not be for you, but if it is, you make a career and have life long friends.”
The closeness of this regiment was impossible to deny as they embraced each other tightly with tears in their eyes, and promised to keep in touch. Thirty days of their skin being scorched by the sun, sleeping outside in the rain, and laying in position on the ground for hours on end has a way of creating a bond that is different than any other. Drill Sgt. Glenn Cowan, who was with CIET 3 for the duration of CST, said it perfectly.
“On day one, they were individuals, and I got to watch them come together,” he said. “It was a beautiful thing to see.”