JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The non-commissioned officer in charge shouted “10 seconds” as the cadets strained to get in a few more situps and pushups squeezing out every last bit of strength.
Blood vessels popped from their foreheads and sweat poured off their bodies as cadets with the 7th regiment put all their effort into getting the highest score possible on the Army Physical Fitness Test at the Leader Development and Assessment Course here, June 26.
The LDAC or Operation Warrior Forge, as it’s called here, is held every year on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. More than 6,000 Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets from across the country will spend 29 days here testing and perfecting their leadership skills. Every cadet must complete Warrior Forge before they can receive the coveted gold bar and become a commissioned officer through the Army ROTC program, according to U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs Office.
The cadets’ first major event is the APFT. This event gauges their physical strength and endurance in three events the maximum number of pushups and situps in two minutes and a two-mile run.
For all of these future leaders this test of physical strength and endurance will have a vital impact on their Army careers.
“This particular APFT is critical because it becomes part of their order of merit list when they get assessed for what branch they get,” said Lt. Col. David Dosier, professor of military science at Northern Illinois University.
When cadets do well on the APFT then they go into the rest of the course with high morale and momentum, he said.
While the initial APFT during Warrior Forge holds great importance as future officers they will have to join the Army in good shape and continue to progress in order to maintain the required level of readiness.
“We take the APFT to gauge physical fitness but it’s more important that they have a lifestyle that embodies physical fitness so that they workout and stay fit whether they have PT test or not,” Dosier said.
Being physically fit embodies a large portion of military lifestyle as the cadets may come to realize when they receive their commission. Not all cadets who finish will receive a commission.
“As leaders, you don’t want to ask your Soldiers to do something you can’t do,” Dosier said. “You don’t want to ask soldiers to complete a six-mile run and then you fallout half way through.”
Grant Strem, a cadet from Simpson University in California, did well on his APFT however, wishes he had trained a little harder. He joined the Army ROTC program hoping to continue a military legacy his father, currently a lieutenant colonel with the Army Engineers, started.
The anxiety is high for some cadets as they take this initial APFT.
“For a lot of them this is their very first exposure to any type of real military environment; they are away from their comfort zone,” Dosier said.
“This is a lot more pressure than I’m used to at college and the garrison environment is more involved,” said Shannon Miller, a cadet from Michigan Technological University.
She hopes to continue to keep her APFT scores and her grades up in an effort to earn her commission, work in the nursing field at an intensive care unit and continue the family tradition of serving her country. Six generations of family members served in the military before her, she said.
Jessica Wendt, a cadet from South Dakota State University, is pushing herself as hard as she can through Warrior Forge. “I want to see what I’m made of and see how well I can do. I want to lead by example and show people that there is a standard when you wear a uniform,” said Wendt.
Although the APFT is the first test of these potential future leaders, an overall goal of striving to do their best and earning their commission is foremost on their minds. Many of the cadets are striving to continue a family tradition of serving in the military.