This is part three of a three part series of blogs from Army ROTC Cadet Robert Callahan, a senior at Cornell University. He is reflecting on his four years as an ROTC student here at Cornell. Please follow along on his amazing journey and doors of opportunity that have been opened up to him through his experience with the Army ROTC program.
ROTC: Prepared Me Well
After my junior year, I attended the Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC), which pitted every member of ROTC’s Class of 2014 against each other in measures of physical fitness, basic soldier skills, and leadership. Fortunately, Cornell’s ROTC had prepared me well and I received a rating of “Exceeds Expectations” along with everyone else in the Cornell ROTC program less one. After LDAC, I was sent to the Army’s Air Assault course. Air Assault was a 10 day crash course in helicopter and pathfinder operations, sling load operations, and rappelling (a video description can be seen here http://vimeo.com/71340413, I make a cameo!). After countless physical and mental tests, which included inspecting a Humvee rigged to be picked up by a helicopter, an obstacle course, and a 12 mile forced march, I graduated Air Assault School with a new badge (Ooo shiny!) and having rappelled out of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter at a hover (WOAH! That was AWESOME!). I was one of two cadets in Cornell ROTC’s senior class to graduate from Air Assault during our time as undergraduates. This was lucky for me because most soldiers and officers will not attend Air Assault unless they are stationed at Fort Campbell with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
The confidence that ROTC instilled in me allowed me to make the most of my time at Cornell, both on and off campus. During my freshmen year, I ran to be the President of 2014’s Class Council and won! The time management I had developed first semester allowed me to balance quartercarding, chalking, and going door-to-door soliciting votes while still completing problem sets, studying for prelims, and being an active pledge of my fraternity. I was re-elected sophomore and junior year, and in December 2013 I had the opportunity to speak to January graduates of 2014 in Barton Hall. There were a lot of people in the stands that morning and I was nervous, but Barton was home turf! If I could work out there all week and practice leading soldiers on its gym floor, then I could handle talking for a couple of minutes. I may have been nervous, but I stood up and talked and somehow seemed not to mess up!
My sophomore year, an upperclassman texted me and asked if I wanted to do a Tough Mudder in a month (Tough Mudders are pretty much half marathons with obstacles). Even though I am not the best runner, I immediately agreed. A month later, with no training, a group of us ran and finished the mudder with no problem. In fact, we loved it so much that we ran another one six months later! Though I may not have been as physically prepared as some of the paleo-dieting, cross fitting contestants, I knew that I wouldn’t quit. I learned this about myself during ruck marches during the spring of my freshman year (a ruck march is a distance event where you carry a set load, usually 35-65 pounds, a set distance, usually between 6 and 12 miles). Ruck marches were a mandatory part of the training program for juniors, but underclass cadets were welcome to join if they wanted to. Fritz (the guy from up there^) and I decided to go to the rucks and they did wonders for me physically and mentally.
ROTC has been an integral part of my time at Cornell. However, it has not been the defining part of my time here. Instead, it provided me with a foundation that I could build a unique and fulfilling college experience on. As I prepare to transition to Active Duty after graduation, I am happy for all that ROTC has given me and all that it has allowed me to do. If you’re interested in ROTC, stop by Barton Hall and give it a shot; it was the best thing I did here and it could be for you, too!keep looking »