Highway to L-DAC

ROTC advanced-camp stressful time for incoming Cadets

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. — As a hot crowded military bus rumbled southward down Interstate 5 June 13 from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., each of the Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets sat jammed into the torn pleather seats, rife with looks of concern. One of the passengers, Cadet Connor Maher, a political science student from Boston University, recounted the flurry of emotions engulfing his thought process leading up to the uncomfortable bus ride down I-5 on the way to the 2013 Leader Development and Assessment Course.

Reserve Officers' Training Corps Cadet Connor Maher, a political science student from Boston University in Boston, Mass., rides on a military bus June 13 on his way to the Leader Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The course is a 29-day scenario-driven training exercise used to teach Cadets the foundations of military leadership. (U.S. Army Photo by Joe Finley)

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadet Connor Maher, a political science student from Boston University in Boston, Mass., rides on a military bus June 13 on his way to the Leader Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The course is a 29-day scenario-driven training exercise used to teach Cadets the foundations of military leadership. (U.S. Army Photo by Joe Finley)

At different times leading up to Operation Warrior Forge I have been excited, concerned and sometimes a mix of both, said Maher. It’s not really the things that I can control that I am worried about. I am more concerned about those aspects that are out of my control that could affect one of my evaluations.

I heard a horror story from one Cadet that came through LDAC last year, Maher explained. She said that when she was platoon leader she had a really bad relationship with her assistant platoon leader and that he did absolutely nothing to help her out, which ruined her evaluation. Another friend told me that a change in the weather during land navigation had a negative impact on their evaluation. In the end though, things like that are really up to chance so I have to try to put it out of my mind.

From evaluation anxiety, to a combination of excitement and worry, the emotional juxtaposition that Maher described is common amongst Cadets preparing for the Army’s largest intra-continental training exercise. Each Cadet’s individual performance and leadership qualities are evaluated throughout the 29-day course for placement on the national order of merit list for commissioned officer candidates.

Not all of Maher’s experiences leading up to the challenges at LDAC were negative. A lot of the time spent in the Boston University ROTC classes, were designed to ensure success during the course.

“I’m looking forward to put all the stuff I’ve learned to use,” said Maher, “We’ve put a lot of work into developing how we are going to do all these lanes … to finally get a chance to showcase all the work we’ve put in is exciting. For the last week I have just been itching to get here and get going and get the ball rolling on this … so I can get it out of the way.”

Cadets at LDAC have extremely limited communication with their friends and family back home and Maher is no exception. He said that although he is a long way from home and already misses his family and friends back in Boston he is glad to be out here competing against the other Cadets.

“It’s not like going home is on the horizon, but it is not like this is an indefinite living situation. This is just a month,” said Maher.

Fortunately for Maher and the rest of Cadets jammed into the rectangular metal vessel careening down I-5 towards Warrior Forge and the unknown, 29 days from now their ride back to the airport will be filled with smiles.

Story and photo by Joe Finley

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