News: Officer candidates, cadets conduct joint exercise as training nears completion
Story by 1st Lt. Chad Carlson
RAPID CITY, S.D. - Soldiers in the South Dakota Army National Guard’s Officer Candidate School and cadets in the Reserve Officer Training Corps from universities throughout South Dakota and western Nebraska consolidated training for a joint exercise, April 10-13 on West Camp Rapid. The programs are in the final months of preparing senior level candidates and cadets to commission as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army or S.D. Army National Guard.
Between the two programs, 113 officer candidates and cadets participated in the annual training event, which focused on leader development, negotiating obstacles as a team, tactical patrolling and land navigation – areas they will be evaluated on in the coming months, prior to becoming lieutenants.
“This exercise is their last rehearsal before that evaluation period towards commissioning,” said Lt. Col. Lynna Speier, professor of military science at the S.D. School of Mines & Technology.
ROTC, the college elective for undergraduate and graduate students, sends students to a five-week capstone event, the summer between their junior and senior year, called Leader Development and Assessment Course, at Fort Knox, Ky.
“LDAC is the culminating validation exercise towards commissioning,” Speier said. “Cadets will be tested on everything from Army physical fitness to land navigation to their leadership performance. Once cadets complete LDAC, and become seniors in their academic discipline, they become trainers for the underclassmen in preparation for commissioning.”
OCS, which provides the opportunity for college graduates to earn their commission through annual training periods and drill weekends, will conduct their final phase of training in the Black Hills in July through the 196th Regional Training Institute at Fort Meade. The 16-day training period, know as Phase III, will test candidates on troop leading procedures, a leadership reaction course, a field leadership exercise, infantry squad tactics, combat water survival training and a tactical exercise without troops.
“The officer candidates out here training are in Phase II, primarily an academic phase,” said Capt. Jared Bloomgren, OCS senior platoon trainer. “They’re going through areas they will be tested on this summer like the field leadership reaction course, the obstacle course and various patrol operations that are going to make them better-rounded for Phase III.”
The large number of trainees allows trainers to put their candidates/cadets into teams with varying backgrounds, experience and leadership styles.
“Right now the officer candidates act as a class. They know how to work together, they know everything about each other, but when they hit Phase III this summer they will be split into different platoons, with an element they will not know,” said Bloomgren. “So here, we split them up among the ROTC groups preparing them for what they’ll experience.”
That familiarization and comfort is something ROTC trainers also try to eliminate during the four days.
“On campus the cadets know each other well, they’re in class together, they train together every weekend, some of them live together, so they’re pretty forgiving to each other and it’s not as stressful of an environment,” said Lt. Col. Ross Nelson, professor of military science at the University of South Dakota. “When you put them here with new people it kind of ups the stress level a bit.”
Breaking up the familiarity of the groups also allowed trainers to mix up the varying degrees of military experience.
“OCS typically brings noncommissioned officers into the formation, as most of the officer candidates are former NCOs,” said Speier. “So it gives the ROTC cadets an opportunity to learn from NCOs and provides a depth of experience.”
The ROTC senior class is scheduled to hold their commissioning ceremonies in May at Mount Rushmore where 11 cadets will commission as second lieutenants, eight of which will join the SDARNG.
The nine officer candidates are scheduled to finish their training with Phase III, a 16-day training period held in the Black Hills in July and commission into the SDARNG in August.