FORT KNOX, Ky. – It was a little past 11 o’clock at night when Cadet Mercedes Hayes of New Mexico Military Institute reminded herself that she was over halfway done. There were only 3.2 miles remaining.
“I came up with a little mantra to tell myself – that I’m a strong person, everyone else is doing the same thing I am, and no matter what, it’s just about finishing,” she said as she sat to take a water break with the other Cadets of 5th Regiment, Basic Camp. “I feel like I want to sleep, honestly. But I feel that I need to finish,” the San Diego native added.
Both Alpha Company and Bravo Company set out on foot under the cover of night to march 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles July 19.
“This part of this whole experience has been just to keep going, so I guess that’s what I have to do,” Hayes said.
With nothing but vehicle headlights marking the path they inched on, they climbed multiple hills with demanding and steep inclines that were framed by the pitch-black forests of rural Kentucky. Some were nearly perpendicular and went on for several hundred feet.
Cadets of Alpha Company carried yellow ChemLights while green ones marked the Cadets of Bravo Company.
Although the ruck march was not an easy task to complete, Cadet Derek Martin of Oklahoma City University says he was able to enjoy it despite the physically demanding challenge.
“I started doing ROTC two weeks before coming here, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. This is a lot of fun to me,” Martin, an Orlando native, said.
The ruck march started at the end of their two-day field training exercise in the wilderness of Fort Knox and ended back at the Cadets’ barracks off of Wilson Road.
Drill Sergeant Mark Robinson says his platoon, 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, exhibited newfound motivation during the march.
“They dug deep. Their motto is ‘Too Stupid to Quit.’ This group has a lot of heart. They’re not good at any one thing, but they have a lot of heart,” the Nashville native shared.
According to Drill Sergeant Mark Robinson, the treacherous trek is one of the final things the Cadets are required to do before they graduate camp.
“It’s a test of will for them… They had the opportunity to quit. It’s a big deal for them to go home with a sense of achievement,” Robinson said.
After recovering from the ruck march, the Cadets of 5th Regiment, Basic Camp will put their leadership skills learned over the course of the summer to the test before they graduate July 28.
Cadet Summer Training will bring 8,200 Cadets through Basic and Advanced Camp this summer on Fort Knox. These camps are designed to help challenge, grow and improve various skills and leadership qualities within the Cadets. If you think you have what it takes to be a Cadet or if you are interested in a job after college, click the following link: https://my.goarmy.com/info/rotc1/index.jsp?iom=IP08-AUTO-R1NA-BR-XXX-XX-XXX-MO-XX-X-BRCMAC:IP08