By Alex Mclaughlin
Photo By: Erica Lafser
FORT KNOX, Kentucky–
Cadet Summer Training provides a dynamic to young officer training that is crucial to the Army’s success.
Officers-to-be from all over the country come to Leader Training Course and Leader Development and Assessment Course to gain those leadership skills and conquer fears. A cadet from California may be paired with a cadet from New York. A cadet from Montana may meet a person from Florida, the first that cadet has met in their life.
America is a host to many different cultures and Army ROTC reflects this. However, everyone comes to Cadet Summer Training with the same goal of becoming a better person and graduating. Not just for personal achievement, but because these cadets know the gravity of the importance that their journey means to their families and their country.
Kevin Gonzalez, ROTC cadet at University of Puerto Rico in Mayuez, is a Spanish speaker first and an English speaker second– a quality that doesn’t always describe the typical Leader Training Course cadet.
However, he is an American citizen and has a family that he loves and wants to protect. He recognizes he has a country that has done so much for him. At LTC in Fort Knox, he feels it is not only the first step in the direction of becoming an Army officer, but his duty to complete this journey and embark on a course to honorably serving his country.
Gonzalez is a Biology major at his university. As one might expect of someone with that major, he has the ambition of going to medical school and becoming a surgeon.
Gonzalez said that Army ROTC provides the focus he needs to stay on track to achieving that goal. He intends to practice his area of expertise inside the Army Medical Corps. Though he is only a Sophomore in college, he has already taken an active role in gaining experience in his area of study.
Outside of the ROTC program, he is already showing his potential to be a successful Army officer.
“I’ve spent time in Peru volunteering with Medlife, an organization that allows me to help low-income families with medical needs,” Gonzalez said. “That allowed me to spend time gaining experience in medical clinics and really help people who need it. That was a special experience for me.”
For Gonzalez, the Army experience is more about what he can do for others, than what he can gain himself.
“I wanted to do something for my country and be a leader,” Gonzalez said. “I am serious about graduating and getting the most out of this experience. It isn’t about me. It is about being a leader for others and respecting them. I am here to learn how to do that in the best way possible.”
Leader Training Course is where many cadets have the opportunity to test the Army lifestyle and see if they feel compatible. Gonzalez was unsure how speaking English as a second language would affect his time at LTC.
Gonzalez said he has been pleasantly surprised at LTC and what he has learned about other people’s culture while he as been here.
“My first language is Spanish and sometimes it is difficult since the training is in English,” Gonzalez said. “Fortunately I’ve met many new people here with cultures different from mine and we all help each other to succeed. I learn new words every day and have made many new friends. It is exciting to come here and become a part of a new culture together.”
Gonzalez is not yet contracted with the Army, but said that it is currently a major goal he intends to achieve. After completing half his training at LTC, he knows this is the place where he needs to be to succeed.
“It is incredible how we have become family during our training,” Gonzalez said. “The Army life is definitely a good life. LTC changed my perspective of the Army.”
Gonzalez has family in the military, who gave him positive advice when contemplating joining ROTC. However, he stresses that it was his decision to join and the lessons he has learned so far during LTC have reassured him that he made the correct decision.
“LTC is all about learning how to be confident in yourself,” Gonzalez said. “The Army teaches you that you have to have respect for yourself and for your peers. You must be able to work as a team to succeed. Never give up. These are all very important life lessons we are learning here.”