By: Jake McCollum
FORT KNOX (June 20, 2015) – Some came from prestigious universities. Others came from nationally recognized organizations. Most came for more information about ROTC cadets and their training, in order to better assist the young people they work with.
All got a small taste of what it’s like to earn a gold bar.
Centers of Influence from all over the country visited Fort Knox for a conference for three days last week, learning about the training all ROTC cadets have to go through, as well as their lives after they become Lieutenants. The first conference of its kind for Cadet Initial Entry Training and the Cadet Leader’s Course, it was designed to expose participants to some of the ROTC training that takes place at Fort Knox and help increase understanding of what ROTC is all about.
“Our overall strategy is to increase awareness…with the right information,” said Maj. Audricia Harris, Chief of Marketing Communications for US Army Cadet Command and Officer in Charge for the Centers of Influence conference. “Our research shows gaps in knowledge in professionals outside the Army about ROTC…if we can fill in those gaps we can gain some quality cadets.”
The three day conference included classes on the history and significance of Fort Knox, panel discussions where participants posed questions to cadets and officers, tours of the Fort and its historic Patton Museum and various training sessions including the Forest Hills high ropes course, a rappelling lesson and virtual-reality based tactical training.
The focus, however, was that these Centers of Influence witness the good work being done at Fort Knox and in ROTC, and how they can go back to their institutions and spread the word to the youth they interact with about a possible future as an Army Officer.
“The Army is a viable career alternative…we need to give the kids we mentor more of an exposure to the military lifestyle,” said Marv Dickerson, a representative from the 100 Black Men. “What they see is what they’ll be.”
“I think it’s awesome to see what our ROTC cadets go through firsthand,” Miranda Beard, a representative of the National School Boards Association, said. “I’m very impressed at all the activities that have been shown here.”
Whether it was taking a deep breath before stepping off the rappel tower or letting one out before pulling the trigger at the Engagement Skills Trainer, participants gained a whole new level of respect for cadet training when they went through it themselves.
“I freakin’ loved it,” said Latina Rivers, a counselor at the US Space and Rocket Center, as she came off the Forest Hills ropes course. “It’s fun and cool and engaging.” According to her, the Space and Rocket Center is planning a partnership with US Army Cadet Command because the Army is the largest employer of STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – centered graduates.
“We’re trying to bolster and enhance our relationship and expose our demographic to what the US Army is all about,” Rivers said.
The Centers of Influence conference ended with a formal dinner attended by Major General Peggy Combs and many other senior officers at Fort Knox.
“We appreciate you taking your family time and spending it with our family here during this summer,” Combs said in her speech to the participants. “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being here.”
Maj. Harris plans to host another COI event next year, where different officials will be invited out to Fort Knox to witness the same training and benefits of ROTC cadets. Being a former cadet herself, she knows the value of the ROTC program. Until then, it is on the Centers of Influence to take the information and experience they’ve gained back home with them.
They all went home Army strong.