On a cloudy morning at 2:30 am, 1st Regiment Cadets started the 12-mile foot march, which is the last training event of Advanced Camp 2021.
Spirits were high and morale was lifted, as they marched in cadence beside their newly found companions. Cadets have only known each other for about 30 days, however, they have formed bonds that will last a lifetime.
“My platoon calls [the 12-mile foot march] a four-hour bonding session,” said Cadet Drew Cartwright. “I have grown so close with this group of people… we’re like a little family now.”
Cartwright, from Carson-Newman University, is part of Alpha company, 2nd platoon. He is thankful for the people who were brought into his life at Advanced Camp. “I think I got really lucky with some of the people that I’ve met here,” he said. “There are several guys who I think I’m going to be friends with for life.”
Every Cadet participates in three ruck marches throughout the summer: the 6, 8, and 12-mile. However, the 6-mile ruck is a timed event, which is factored into their accessions and counted for achieving recondo; this means that some Cadets will march at a different pace than their companions.
“Honestly, the 6-miler was worse than the other ones and that is solely because you are by yourself. The whole time you are in your own head thinking about how much your back hurts, how much longer you have, how tired you are… but with the last two, you’ve got people to your left and right who have your back,” he said. “You can talk to them and share in that comradery; that ruck feels a little lighter when you’re laughing with your buddies.”
Cadets complete the 12-miler directly after their Field Training Exercise (FTX), which lasts for 12 days. Cartwright remembers, on the first day of the Grizzly stage of FTX, they endured torrential rain.
“It rained for about 8 hours straight, it’s the most rain I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “We were all just sitting there in a little defilade together, thinking ‘wow, this sucks’— but you know that it’s only temporary and that you’ve got each other… you share that burden together and that’s what gets you through it.”
Whether it’s pouring rain or a cloudy morning at 2:30 am, it means the world to have fellow Cadets there to keep you going. “You push through it for that guy next to you, because you know that he’s sucking just as much as you are.”