FORT KNOX, Ky. – For anyone who has watched Netflix’s original series, “Stranger Things,” you know that mornings are for “coffee and contemplation.” For the Cadets from 8th Regiment, Advanced Camp, something similar could be said (minus the coffee). Starting at 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 1, Cadets participated in their final must-pass event: the 12-mile ruck march.
A Cadet from 8th Regiment, Advanced Camp yells as she sprints through the finish line at the 12-mile ruck march on Aug. 1 at Fort Knox, Ky. Photo by Emily Peacock.
Although there was not a drop of coffee in sight, Cadets had plenty of time to contemplate and reflect on their time at Cadet Summer Training. Four hours, to be exact.
In order to pass their final event, Cadets must complete the 12-mile march with their Kevlar strapped to their chins, their weapons in hand and their 35lb. rucksacks on their back, all within the allotted four hours.
Unless you’re gunning for the Recondo Badge – now you only have three hours to reflect.
“I’m feeling great,” said Cadet Colin Yabor, West Chester University, after a little over two miles on the road. “My battalion at school trained us fairly well for road marches. We did the 2nd Brigade Freedom Fitness Challenge this year, which is a full marathon. 12 miles is nothing.”
Although he had a little under 10 miles left of his march to go, Yabor was already looking forward to life after CST.
“I’m looking forward to preparing the MS3s that are coming here next year and also making myself a better leader,” said Yabor. “I’m ready to finish my last year of college strong and get out there.”
Unfortunately, ruck marches aren’t for everyone.
“I’m hoping to be an aviation officer,” said Cadet Gavin Huffman, Tennessee Technical University. “Rucking isn’t my favorite thing in the world. I’d like to think that we make things with wheels and with wings for a reason.”
Despite the countless miles Huffman and the other 8,200 Cadets march during their time at CST, Huffman did offer this piece of advice based on his experience in Advanced Camp:
“When it comes to MREs, you have to be sure to be the first one to the box so that you can pick out the one you want. I personally like the lemon pepper tuna.”
While some Cadets spent their time thinking about the food they’ve eaten over the past few weeks, others reflected on the exercises they’ve participated in.
“My favorite exercise would have to be the qualification range,” said Matthew Pena, University of Massachusetts-Amherst. “I thought it was awesome because it gave us the chance to work with real ammo.”
When asked about his least favorite exercise, Pena laughed before responding.
“To be honest, I didn’t love the CS chamber,” said Pena. “I’ve gone through it before and it never gets easier.”
As Pena reflected on the highs and lows that came with CST, some Cadets talked about their sources of motivation, pushing them to not only finish the 12-mile ruck march, but Advanced Camp as a whole.
“Motivation from other Cadets is very important,” said Cadet Bailey Moore, Pennsylvania State University.
“Yesterday I received a letter from my sister that said ‘you’re stronger than you think you are.’ I feel like it came just in time to get me through today,” said Moore.
From MREs to words of support and encouragement, by thinking about their time at CST and all the people that impacted their journey, Cadets were able to find ways to make their 12-mile ruck march just another walk in the park.