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ROTC Field Training Puts Future Leaders to the Test

by Julianna Flamio | Boston University

F Posted in: College P Posted on: June 22, 2012
Screen shot 2012-06-21 at 9.54.07 PM Image courtesy of Flickr, Eastern Washington University

Kaitlin Daddona, a rising junior at Boston University, is spending most of the summer on an unrolled yoga mat guiding yogis through Sun Salutation sequences on her native Long Island, NY. A certified yoga instructor since January, Daddona has honed her leadership skills on the mat over the course of the spring semester, having taught weekly classes at a yoga studio in Boston.

However, at the start of summer her leadership skills faced a challenge far different from a room full of downward dogs. Daddona put her yoga practices on hold and fulfilled her duty as a cadet in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) by completing Field Training in Alabama and Mississippi.

In an email interview, Daddona explained the main objective behind ROTC Field Training by quoting the Field Training Manual.

“‘The program is designed to evaluate military leadership and discipline, determine your potential for entry into the Professional Officer Corps and stratify you among your peers,’” the manual states.

“Basically, we’re put under high-stress situations to test our leadership capabilities,” Daddona said, “We learned, in depth, what it means to be an Air Force officer.”

According to the U.S. Air Force ROTC website, cadets who desire to reach the Professional Officer Course (POC) must attend Field Training in the summer after their sophomore year, where they participate in tasks such as “survival training,” “aircraft and crew orientation” and “leadership study.”

“We learn essential aspects of being deployed, but most importantly, how to lead a group of individuals and form them into effective teams,” Daddona said.

Kelsey Cullinan, a rising junior at the University of Notre Dame, also completed the 28 days of Air Force Field Training from May 15 to June 12 at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Mississippi.

Cullinan said no day was alike at Air Force Field Training, but every day was demanding. Cadets are required to be on their feet and focused for 16 to 17 hours a day, she said.

“Training varies by location as well as by day, but there is lots of marching and lots of briefings about different events or different training items,” Cullinan said.

Dadonna said the daily regimen was much different from that of a school day on campus.

“There really is no average day at Field Training,” Daddona said, “We woke up at four and went to bed at nine, with non-stop movement in between.”

The program is just as highly scheduled as it is intensive, Cullinan said.

“Everything is very locked on, meaning that we are not joking around and the different staff members are always around making corrections,” Cullinan said. “Even meals are quick, systemized events lasting ten minutes at a maximum.”

Compared to the average students, ROTC cadets start off college with a clear vision of life after college. Field Training is therefore a crucial step in the path towards serving in the U.S. military.

Cullinan said cadets will use the leadership skills they learned at Field Training in the Air Force.

“Once we commission, we will be in charge of any number of enlisted members who have been in the active duty Air Force for any number of years,” Cullinan said. “We need to be ready to lead those that are under us but also be prepared to ask for help and advice from our senior airmen, the Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs).”

As Dadonna resumes her yoga teaching, Cullinan said she will soon begin her work as a director at a camp for disadvantaged children, a job she has held for the past four consecutive years.

Daddona said she had a positive experience at Air Force Field Training despite having to put a pause to her yoga flow.

“It allowed me to learn so much about myself as a leader and as a person, not only because we were disconnected from the ‘real world,’ but because we were put in incredibly stressful situations and forced to deal with them in the best way possible,” Daddona said. “For me, that inspired me beyond belief.”

Looking back, Cullinan said she also had a positive experience mainly because she made new friends and realized the lengths of her personal endurance. However, she said the rigor of training affected her overall opinion on the program.

“Field Training is an experience unlike any other, and though I learned a lot and have a new outlook on many things, it isn’t something I would want to do again,” she said. “As most people say, it’s the most fun I never want to have again.”

Julianna Flamio Julianna Flamio Julianna is a junior at Boston University in the College of Communication studying journalism and Italian. She is a COM Ambassador to prospective students and freshmen, and the co-social media chairperson for BU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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