By: Jake McCollum
Fort Knox (July 23, 2015) – Challenge is a word every ROTC cadet is accustomed to. It is a challenge to forge themselves into gold bars and earn the rank of 2nd Lt., one that they live day in and day out at Cadet Summer Training.
One Cadet in particular knows this challenge like no other.
Cadet Koty Mann of St. Bonaventure University in New York is roughly six foot tall, built and tanned after a month in the Kentucky sun. He wears glasses and has blond hair, a tattoo on the underside of his arm reading arguably the most important tenant of the Warrior Ethos – “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” He speaks with a positive, confident tone that conveys his bright future as a US Army Officer. He attended 2014’s intensive Leadership Development Accessions Course at Fort Knox before suffering an injury that forced him to return to the following year for the newly designed Cadet Leadership Course.
Essentially, Mann went through ROTC’s capstone training event twice.
Mann never intended to join the Army when he started going to college. He enlisted in the National Guard during his sophomore year and attended Basic Training. Afterwards he accepted a contract with Seneca Battalion ROTC at St. Bonaventure University and entered the battalion as a MSIII.
Mann commissioned as a 2nd Lt. on July 23rd, 2015. He wants to be a Military Police Officer and eventually work for the DEA or a “parallel three letter agency.” He does not yet know his branch, as he will be assessed with rising cadets in their senior year this coming November. Until then, he will work full time in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.
“I’m nervous,” Mann said about finally receiving his gold bar after several years of training. “I’ve learned a lot here… it’s perfect for right before a commissioning. There’s so much I’ve learned this summer from prior enlisted guys that have had (a) deployment.”
“At one point the SF guy was telling me where to tell him to shoot,” Mann said. “It was just one of those moments where I took a second and thought, wow, this is gonna be my call soon. It was humbling.”
Before Mann got to that point in his ROTC career, he was humbled by a snake hole in the ground. During the night land navigation portion of LDAC he’d been studying a compass while walking towards the second point he needed to find. Mann spotted the point roughly 100 meters away and started towards it, not seeing the hole through the darkness in front of him. He stepped into it, hearing an audible crack as his body wrenched forward. His battle buddy rushed over to help him and tried to carry him to an aid station but he refused, instead continuing on to find the next eight points and finish the exercise.
Later he found out he’d fractured his ankle once in the fall and again walking on it all night. He sent to the holding company for a week on crutches before being returned home.
“That was really frustrating,” Mann said. “I’ve never broken anything in my life. I’ve played contact sports, I’ve have had minor concussions, but there’s never been a point where that’s happened…and it happened at probably the most crucial point in the cadet land phase. It was frustrating to come back on the MSIII (junior) side, but it reinforced a lot of things.”
Coping with his injury didn’t end when he left Fort Knox. The first semester of Mann’s senior year he was the Executive Officer, or second in command, of his home battalion. The second semester, he was the Commanding Officer. In addition to his duties as a MSIV (senior) cadet, he had to tend to the injury and ensure he came out stronger than he went in.
“PT was a little bit of a challenge,” Mann said. “I could still show up to PT and remember showing up to PT with the boot on, hanging out in the back of the formation and doing the workouts that I could.”
Undeterred, Mann healed over the course of his senior year and watched his class commission at the end of the year. “I was excited for my friends, but I really wanted to be up there with them,” he said. While many of them headed out for the Basic Officer Leadership Course at Army bases across the country, he remained and waited for his CLC regiment ship date. He left on June 23rd.
One month later, the day before he graduated CLC, Mann received his gold bar alongside thirty other 2nd Lt.’s, his shoulder boards pinned on by his mother, brother, sister and girlfriend.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Mann said as he embraced his family after the ceremony had concluded.
Mann is just one of many success stories being pumped out of Fort Knox every year with brand new gold bars pinned to their shoulders. He plans to vacation with his family in King’s Island when he returns home.
He is living proof that good things come to those who wait.