By Tanner Cole
Feature Photo by Katie Gray
The view from the stands was a bright one at the Leader Development and Assessment Course graduation for 11th and 12th regiments. Cadets stood in uniform under the Kentucky sun one last time while their friends and families watched with pride.
Most of the young leaders only have their final year of ROTC standing between them and their new ranks. Over the summer cadets were evaluated on their leadership skills in various leadership positions ranging from squad leader all the way to company commander.
After completing her summer of LDAC, Leah Gonzalez is returning to Texas A&M University in College Station to take on another leadership role before graduating. Gonzalez will serve as ROTC Battalion Commander for the fall semester.
“I’m now the highest ranking cadet in our Army ROTC,” Gonzalez said. “I’ll oversee everybody in ROTC who’s not already a cadre member.”
Gonzalez sought information from past commanders to prepare for her role, and she gained valuable experience during LDAC.
“Back at school there’s like two jobs where you can use what you’ve learned,” Gonzalez said. “Here you have a lot more moments to show that you know what you’re doing and that you’re capable of being a good leader.”
Gonzalez is a leadership studies major at Texas A&M. After completing her senior year, she has a spot waiting for her in the reserves as a military intelligence officer.
During the ceremony outstanding cadets were recognized for their performance at LDAC. Ryan Barefield, of Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, was recognized as the Top National Guard Cadet for the 12th Regiment.
“I had good expectations going in but I didn’t realize that I would do this well,” Barefield said. “But I think overall everyone learned a little more about leadership while here.”
Barefield stood amongst cadets from all over the country. With their heads held high, marched past the bleachers and soon reunited with their families. Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs put it best with her remark on the cadets’ appearance.
“In the words of Billy Crystal, you look marvelous,” she said.