Learning to lead - Air Force ROTC students battle through the tests to become officers
Cadets learn combative skills during their summer field training on May 22. Combative training is part of the rigorous physical expectations placed on cadets during their 28 days at Maxwell. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship)
Learning to lead - Air Force ROTC students battle through the tests to become officers

by Airman 1st Class William J. Blankenship
Air University Public Affairs

5/31/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- For roughly 2,400 selected Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, summer vacations and beach trips were postponed and replaced with a 28-day field training course held annually at Officer Training School.

Air University holds field-training courses for college students in the ROTC program during the summer between their sophomore and junior years of college.

"The summer ROTC training program is a culmination of a cadet's first two years of training at their detachment," said Col. Andrew J. Cernicky, commander of formal training unit one in garrison. "It is a vital and important necessary 28-day process of leadership, development and assessment to determine their worthiness to become an Air Force commissioned officer."

Many people do not realize that being in the ROTC program in college does not give the cadet the right to become an officer, said Cernicky.

"Only the best cadets have the opportunity to be evaluated in the summer ROTC training program."

Reveille sounds at 4:00 a.m., kicking off the long training day that lasts until 9:00 p.m. for the hopeful future officers.

"Every day presents a new opportunity for cadets to better themselves in ways that they have not experienced before within their detachments," said Cernicky.

Cadets are tested in physical fitness, drill assessment, the Field Training Manual and the Airman's Manual. Those who pass the tests earn the opportunity to advance to the next two years of training in their detachments. Those that do not pass will not have a chance to commission in the United States Air Force.

As part of their summer training, cadets are given the opportunity to showcase their growing skill set in a 14-day-mock-deployment exercise.

"Cadets will learn how to exist in that type of environment," explained Cernicky. "They will be given assignments in a role supporting a contingency and learning to be leaders in that type of setting."

The mock deployment gives cadets the opportunity to hone their abilities and perform tasks together that may be allocated to them in their future Air Force careers, said Cadet Sean Murray, Detachment 720, Pennsylvania State University, Penn.

"Aside from the prior enlisted cadets, none of us have had any experience in a deployed environment and this will be our first time exposed to that," said Murray. "The mock deployment is helpful in preparing us for future real-world scenarios where we are deployed. Leadership has been one of the main focuses of our training here and will be directly applied during the mock deployment."

A parade ceremony at the conclusion of the course gives cadets the opportunity to showcase their sharpened drill abilities.

"This experience is about leadership," said Murray. "I believe the Air Force has such high- quality officers because of the set training they offer, including the intense leadership experience that this summer field training brings."