By Jake McCollum
FORT KNOX (June 11, 2015) – The first steps most ROTC cadets take on their path to complete summer training are not on post, but out of a gate at Louisville International Airport. For some, it is the first time they’ve ever flown. For others, it is the farthest they’ve ever been from their families. For all, it is uncertain and nerve -racking.
For the 580 cadets of 3rd Regiment, it’s known as Day Zero.
The cadets are met by a dedicated reception team that guides them through the airport, all the way from the arrivals area to baggage claim and then to a CST 2015 reception area. This team is assigned to assist cadets at the airport and ensure that they and all of their equipment have successfully arrived, no matter the time.
“Our mission is to have [the cadets] here for less than an hour,” said Master Sgt. Brent Garret, a ROTC instructor from South Carolina State University. The non-commissioned-officer-in-charge of the reception team, he is responsible for ensuring all cadets get through the airport, processed in, and put on a bus bound for Fort Knox. “We coordinated with the airport months in advance…we haven’t seen any issues and are stringent at accountability.”
The team expects to process over 8,000 cadets this summer, all heading to Fort Knox for the Cadet Leader’s Course, Cadet Initial Entry Training, and the Cultural Understanding and Language Program, where cadets are sent overseas for three to four weeks to work with other countries’ militaries and build relationships with civilian populations. So far, they’ve seen roughly 3,000.
“I’m a little nervous, little anxious,” said Cadet Jared Davis from Eastern Michigan University as he waited in line to be processed. “I’m ready to knock this out of the park.”
Cadet Weston Hart from Ohio University agreed. “I’m…ready to get this started…to get some good experiences and learn a little bit,” Hart said.
Third Regiment knows that they are among the first cadets to go through the new CLC program required of all MSIII cadets the summer before their senior year. For some this is daunting, but for others it is just another turn on the path to becoming a Lieutenant.
“Somebody’s gotta do it,” said Cadet Douglas Basin from East Carolina University.
After processing, cadets drop their bags on a truck that will follow their bus to Fort Knox and are issued a meal and told to wait. Before they board, Captain Shon Condover addresses each new busload of cadets over the echoing noise of the airport loading area.
“Set aside the idea of succeeding by yourself…you are stronger as a team,” Condover told the cadets. Previously assigned to the 528th Special Operations Sustainment Brigade, he is now cadre at Brigham Young University in Utah. “Look to your left, right, front, and back – this is your family now. Get to know each other and network because you will see each other again… good luck and God bless.”
Safe and secure at Fort Knox, 3rd Regiment has begun its path to be forged into gold bars.