ROTC cadets see glimpse of future
First Lt. Daniel Steffey speaks with Army ROTC cadets at K-State Sept. 19 in Manhattan. Steffey and other company-grade officers from 4th IBCT participated in a question-and-answer session with seniors. Photo by: Amanda Kim Stairrett, 1ST INF. DIV.
Story by: Amanda Kim Stairrett
1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
MANHATTAN – Kansas State University ROTC cadets had the opportunity Sept. 19 to face the officers whose shoes they could fill in their military careers.
Twelve lieutenants and captains from branches and units across the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division traveled to K-State to meet with seniors and participate in an open question-and-answer session.
The "Wildcat" Battalion hosted the event for "perspective," said Lt. Col. Robert Dixon, professor of military science.
"What better way to learn than from company-grade officers of the 'Big Red One,'" Dixon said. "With the proximity and relationships between Fort Riley and K-State, I'd be remiss not to take advantage and equip our cadets with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions."
The officers relayed their experiences with everything from earning master's degrees, selecting branches to give them skills that would translate to civilian life, choosing duty stations to being expected to do things they weren't trained to do.
"Look at your interests. Look at your Family," said Capt. Brandon Cheney, commander, Company B, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, when giving advice on selecting installations at which to be stationed.
Other officers encouraged the cadets to look at educational opportunities in the communities surrounding posts. Fort Riley was a good choice because of its distance to a university like K-State, some said.
Capt. Christopher Telley, former commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th IBCT, advised the cadets to look into jobs that would give them competitive skills in the civilian world. Factor those long-term goals in when deciding branches, he added.
The question-and-answer session was extremely helpful to the cadets in determining branching assignments and duty locations, Dixon said. The deadline for cadets to complete their accessions packets was Sept. 20, and the meeting with 1st Inf. Div. officers either solidified choices made or gave pause and further consideration, Dixon said.
"What to expect upon commissioning was also helpful gaining critical insights and expectations of company commanders," he added.
A theme several of the officers focused on was the importance of being prepared to take on a variety of jobs. New officers may be expected to do a whole lot more than what is within their branches, the visitors said. Cheney and Telley talked about instances in Afghanistan where they served on remote bases, and, out of necessity, had to successfully complete tasks they initially weren't trained to do. Whether it was sling loading equipment in and out, improvising logistics operations or retrograding equipment, the infantry and armor officers had to quickly learn skills to complete their missions.
"Yes, you were branched in your little bubble," Cheney said, "but your little bubble's going to expand once you get in the Army."
The event was good for the cadets because they got the straight answers from people who have been there, said Cadet Bryan Miller, a Manhattan native.
"Instead of just hearsay," he added, "(it was) straight from the horse's mouth."
The 27-year-old is set to graduate in May and commission into the armor branch. He made the decision to switch from life as an enlisted cavalry scout to that of an officer, he said, because of what it provided.
"It allowed me more opportunities to lead at a higher, more strategic level," he said.
First Lt. Courtney Silvernagel, chemical officer, 4th IBCT, said she didn't get this kind of exposure to Army officers when she was a cadet at the University of South Dakota. There were no Army posts located close to offer a forum of this nature, she said.
The event was a fantastic opportunity for the Big Red One officers and K-State cadets, Silvernagel said, because both groups benefited from the experience.
"Taking on a portion of responsibility for preparing the next generation of officers results in the strengthening of our future force," she said.
Aside from questions about branching options and duty stations, conveying the quality of life in the military was an underlying tone throughout the entire discussion, Silvernagel said.
"Cadets were afforded a picture of the common military lifestyle to be able to prepare for the changes that they will most likely experience once entering the Army," she said. "Prepared leadership will help maintain a prepared force."
Cadet Jacob Wright of Junction City is set to graduate in May and said getting answers from company-level officers will help further develop the cadets as leaders.
"In a couple of years, those experiences will affect us," the 21-year-old said.