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Four Years at the Mount - Senior Year

Senior Year

Conquering LDAC - Part II

Julia Mulqueen

(11/2011) I will continue this month with the tale of my LDAC experience. For those just tuning in, LDAC is an acronym for Leadership Development and Assessment Course. It is a necessary course for all ROTC cadets to attend and pass in order to commission. I will begin where I left off last month which was my boarding the plane headed to Ft. Lewis, Washington.

The plane ride offered me a strange mix of emotions. I was excited to finally attend LDAC. My ROTC cadre had been preparing myself and my fellow cadets for the past three years, and yet, I questioned myself. I was worried that I would forget everything I had been taught and simply fail. Personally, I had never before put so much pressure on myself to succeed. I had never before cared so deeply about success. In my first few years of college, I had been competitive with my grades, and I always tried to do my best. However, it did not seem to me that my performance in classes was the be all and end all for my life, but LDAC, in a way, was. It was a major stepping stone to my future career.

It was these thoughts that consumed my mind during the entire plane ride, expressing themselves in an odd series of dreams. Eventually, after transferring planes in Atlanta, GA, I made it to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport along with a host of other cadets. We followed the signs to baggage claim and then continued on to the check-in location. This was our first taste of LDAC. After adjusting to our summer lives back home, we had to immediately make the switch back to cadet-mode. It helped that we had specialists and sergeants there to remind us that the carefree portions of our summers had come to an end and LDAC had begun.

We hopped onto a bus and drew lunches to sustain us for the afternoon. The drive from the airport to Ft. Lewis was about 40 minutes. Some of us ate, some slept, and some chatted. Once we arrived on post, we were taken to our regimental area and began in-processing. The next step was our baggage check. We had to empty the entire contents of our bags onto the grass in front of our "World War II-era style barracks." The sergeant assigned to our platoon instructed us to hold up each item of the packing list as he called it out. When he called out "eye protection," I held up what I had brought. They were these ridiculous goggles. He laughed out loud and asked if I was a welder back home. I joked back, ‘No, sergeant. They’re just a motivational tool." And a motivational tool they were. Little did I know, they would come in handy many times more throughout my LDAC experience.

Once we passed that first hurdle, we went into the barracks. We received our room assignments and changed into our physical fitness uniforms. I was one of two females on the bottom floor. My roommate and battle buddy was a girl from the west coast and a person who is probably the sweetest person I have ever met. We immediately bonded just by virtue of the fact that we were the only two females in our squad. We were both nervous for the path ahead of us.

Time did not slow down for us though, and we went out to meet the rest of our squad. The beauty of the Army is well expressed in situations like LDAC. The 12 of us in second squad were from all over the nation, but we were to work together as a team. By the end of LDAC, we would be closer to each other than we were to many of our college friends back home.

We spent the first week of our time in Ft. Lewis in-processing and becoming familiar with the training that lay ahead of us. We took a trip to CIF, or Central Issue Facility, and signed for our gear. We put together our rucks and our load bearing vests as a squad. We took the Army Physical Fitness Test and gapped open-mouthed at the Drill Sergeants at the test site. We ate food at the DEFAC, or dining facility, and we "utilized the skookums," meaning we went to the bathroom in the portable toilets outside. Yes, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves and we were feeling a little bit like real soldiers.

Then after our first few days of LDAC had passed, we prepared to move out to the field. We would begin our time in the field outside conducting field craft exercises and then move to the regimental Assembly Area, or AA. Field craft consists of learning how to properly survive in the wilderness while operating tactically. During this time, we also went through our land navigation assessment. I passed day land navigation without an issue. Then night land navigation came around, and my confidence began to waiver. At my home campus, I had never had difficulty with land navigation, but something changed in me when I was out in those Washington woods. It did not help that I popped my ankle out of place while on the course, too.

When I went into the tent to have my scorecard checked, my heart sunk. One of my points was incorrect; I had not passed. Seeing the giant red "X" and the words "NO GO" made me look down in shame.

I walked out to join my buddies and told them the news. To my surprise, no one pointed and laughed. No one even teased me. Everyone actually looked just as bummed as I felt, including my battle buddy. Then I saw tears start to slide down her face, and I knew that she too had seen that giant red "NO GO" on her scorecard. At that point, we did not know what would happen to us, so we just slid into our sleeping bags and prayed for morning to bring us better news.

Stay tuned for next month’s issue in which I’ll detail my remaining time at LDAC.

Read other articles by Julia Mulqueen