Cadet Michael Winters grasps his 60-pound pack and lifts it with a grunt. He files into formation following a line of cadets streaming into an idling bus.
They are heading to Fort Huachuca, a two-hour bus ride south of Tucson, for the first of two Field Training Exercises (FTX) this year. The ASU Reserve Officer Training Corps uses the FTX as a way to take cadets out of the classroom environment and evaluate their leadership skills. Students complete team building objectives, negotiate obstacle courses and conduct open field land-navigation exercises.
The ASU ROTC trains commissioned officers for the Army, National Guard and Army Reserve. Graduates of the program will be entering the Army as second lieutenants, commanding their own platoon.
The ROTC curriculum is broken into four years, with each year focusing on various topics. Freshmen and sophomores study
basic army operations, leadership theory and principles of war, while juniors and seniors are tasked with leadership objectives. The junior year, or Mission-Set Level 3, is the first major test of a student’s ability to command a platoon.
Each cadet is placed in charge of a squad ranging from five to 60 students. As a company commander, Winters is responsible for 60 cadets who need to know each week’s workout schedule, the required uniforms and any other upcoming events.
The junior year is the main focus of the program, preparing students for the Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) at Fort Lewis, Washington. This 29-day evaluation is designed to look at an MS3’s situational awareness and ability to adapt to critical and stressful situations. A passing grade from LDAC guarantees a cadet the ability to compete for full-time status within the Army.