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Five, four, three, two, one, Cadets can be heard joining in on the countdown for the six-mile ruck. Some out of fear, some out of anticipation but all with the drive to pass. GO!

1st Regiment, Advanced Camp Cadets prepare in different ways both physically and mentally for the 6-mile ruck march at Fort Knox, Ky. on June 9, 2021. | Photo by Jacob Hempen, CST Public Affairs Office

1st Regiment, Advanced Camp Cadets had an early start the morning of June 9th, as they faced the six-mile ruck march. A must pass event for the Cadets, they have two hours to carry 35 lbs. of gear on their backs if they want to continue on to graduation.

Cadet Mary Coverdale, from Norwich University, gave her thoughts as she pushed forward one foot at a time.

“The faster you get done, the faster you get to stop walking and the faster you get to eat, and other people are doing this with you,” Coverdale said. “It’s not that bad.”

Motivations for the Cadets can vary, but for many, their battle buddies proved to be the biggest help pushing through the mental and physical barriers.

However, sometimes it’s the simple things that come to mind first when you finally hit the finish line.

“I’d really like some water right now,” Coverdale said, recalling the moment when she finished her march.

Two 1st Regiment, Advanced Camp Cadets march together, giving each other support during the 6-mile ruck march on June 9, 2021. | Photo by Jacob Hempen, CST Public Affairs Office

While the physical challenges of the six-mile ruck can be easy to spot, most Cadets figure out the mental challenges when they step up to the starting line. Cadets like Michael Grantham, coming to Cadet Summer Training (CST) from Texas A&M University, found waking up early can add to the difficulties.

“I wasn’t thinking a whole lot, to be honest with you,” Grantham explained. “We woke up pretty early this morning, so I was pretty tired but I was ready to go.”

And with the 6-mile ruck march behind them, Cadets move one step closer to going out to the field for Field Training Exercises (FTX), the true challenge of CST.

But for Grantham this looming challenge doesn’t faze him at all.

“I love going to the field,” Grantham said. “I think it’s really motivating and nice to be out there with the platoon we’ve been with for the last 18 days, and just get out there and use all of these skills we’ve amassed over the last three years. I’m super excited.”

That motivation can sometimes be in short supply for Cadets, especially at the end of a ruck march, but that is what their battle buddies are there for, support.

Cadet Benjamin Cline, of Minnesota State University at Mankato, has faced many rucks in his time as a prior enlisted soldier so he knows how challenging they can be. So as soon as he drops his ruck after hitting the finish line, he goes right back to cheer his buddies on.

The first batch of 1st Regiment, Advanced Camp Cadets cross the finish line, completing the 6-mile ruck march on June 9, 2021. | Photo by Jacob Hempen, CST Public Affairs Office

“I want to see who else of my friends made it, so I can go back and try to motivate other people,” Cline explained. “Just like, ‘hey, come on,’ like ‘you guys are almost done.’ So that’s one of my favorite parts, the finish line.”

Similar to Grantham, with this ruck march behind them Cline and his platoon are now looking forward to the time when they finally get to reach the field.

“My platoon and I are just super stoked to get out there and prove ourselves,” Cline added. “We’ve gotten to spend a lot of time together and everything that we’ve been doing here all culminates into the field training exercises. And then once we do that, back on the flight home and off to bigger and better things.”