Graduating ROTC cadets reflect on their accomplishments, experiences


Cadets train in Honduras. Senior public health major cadet Jared Howard traveled to Honduras last summer as part of the Cultural Understanding and Leadership Program. 

Jill Golden

As the school year comes to an end, the graduating Army ROTC cadets remember their greatest experiences and achievements throughout the year that made them stronger individuals. The cadets each participated in different training schools and overseas trips, giving them a unique experience.

Cadet Robert Stephenson, a senior business management major, attended Airborne School, which trains cadets to become paratroopers and achieve their airborne certification.

“I was extremely scared, anxious and intimidated about going through the challenges and danger,” Stephenson said.

Cadets were taught in three phases, which included daily physical training, training on using harnesses and parachutes and a variety of jumps from different planes and at different times of day.

“This has helped me become extremely confident in my ability to go into any situation I am asked to enter, regardless of anything, and handle it effectively and to the standard I know I can produce…,” Stephenson said. “This experience, much more than anything else I have ever done, has made me mentally tougher, confident and able.”

Cadet Jared Howard, a senior public health major, spent a few weeks in Honduras last summer as part of the Cultural Understanding and Leadership Program.

“We spent time at their military academy, and learned from their cadets while they, at the same time, learned from us,” Howard said. “In addition, we were educated on how local culture can affect a mission and on how to work with host nations to achieve common goals. Outside of that, we visited Mayan ruins, volunteered with nonprofits and more.”

One of the highlights for him was getting to see what life was like outside the United States and gaining unique experience and wisdom while traveling.

“In all honesty, it was one of the best experiences of my entire life,” Howard said.

The CULP program also gives cadets an experience that will help them in their futures as Army officers. 

“Having real, tangible, on-ground experiences within a foreign nation and unfamiliar environment is always invaluable, not just in terms of achieving military goals, but in terms of achieving any goal where you’re working in an environment you may not be quite used to,” Howard said.

Cadet Eric Bolon, a senior public health major, attended Cadet Troop Leader Training for a month in South Korea last summer to get a view of what his future career as an Army officer would look like. 

“I consider this to be a great accomplishment during ROTC because I had to compete and win this spot; it was not given to me,” Bolon said.

He competed for this spot during Army ROTC’s summer training at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

Bolon served as an assistant platoon leader and led a troop of soldiers at Cadet Troop Leader Training while also planning weapon ranges, briefings and equipment reviews.  

“The information and skills I learned while there have better equipped me to be ready to become a platoon leader in the near future,” Bolon said. “I am more confident with non-commissioned officers who will execute the plan that I create.”

Cadet Steven Westlake, a senior applied engineering major, attended Air Assault School in Georgia, which focused on concentration and safety when rappelling, descending to the ground with a rope.

“I consider this my greatest accomplishment while in ROTC because of the high level of physical and mental ability it takes to complete the course,” Westlake said.

Air Assault School consisted of early mornings with intense workouts, nine obstacle courses, multiple choice and hands-on examinations and rappelling from a Blackhawk helicopter.

“My graduation from the Air Assault School at Fort Benning has proven to me that I am capable of much more than I ever thought possible,” Westlake said. “I have learned that with the right mindset, and support from my family and friends, I can overcome any obstacle that comes my way.”

Jill Golden covers non-traditional students, ROTC and veterans. Contact her at [email protected].