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Four Years at the Mount - Senior Year

Senior Year

LDAC - Conquered

Julia Mulqueen

(12/2011) This month I will continue with the tale of my time during Leadership Development and Assessment Course in Fort Lewis, Washington. Last month, I ended with my defeat while on the Night Land Navigation Course. To be sure, I awoke the next morning feeling my shame covering me like molasses. I bit my lip and twisted my greasy brown hair back into a bun. As I rolled up my sleeping mat, my battle buddy came over to me. "Whatís going to happen to us? Will they send us home?" she asked. I honestly did not know the answer to her first question. I did know that they would not send us home, but my feelings of self-pity were enough to make me hope that they just would.

As the day continued, I thought about what my dad always said to me about leadership and failure. Failure is only failure if we do not learn from it. Great leaders do not succumb to their feelings of worthlessness after defeat; instead, they use those feelings as a springboard into brilliance. With these thoughts, I became once again determined to brush off my humiliation. I would not allow this small setback to push me into mediocrity. No, I would use it to my advantage.

With this renewed confidence in my ability to conquer LDAC, I arrived at the Company Assembly Area. Here our company was to undergo the next phase of training before we went out to compete our Squad Situation Tactical Exercise training. We spent one day learning first aid. The next day we spent on the Field Leaderís Reaction Course. This is a course that tests oneís ability to execute an often outlandish mission with limited supplies and limited time. All twelve of us in the squad went through a rotation as a leader. I had the lucky place of last. I say it was lucky, because the person who goes last is able to take all of the feedback that the evaluator has given throughout the day and use it to her advantage. My mission was to transport three crates of ammo and all of my squad across a blown out bridge in order to resupply a platoon on the other side. With the help of my squad, the mission was a success, and I received the highest marks possible on the evaluation. This certainly brought a smile to my face after my defeat just days before.

The next morning it was time for us to leave the Assembly Area and go out to the Tactical Training Base. This base would be our location for about a week as we did Squad Situational Tactical Exercises, or STX lanes, and patrolling. STX lanes and patrolling are evaluated events at LDAC. They are a culmination of everything a cadet has learned during his or her ROTC experience, and they are a way to see how well a cadet is able to lead, especially during stress. Evaluators purposely throw curveballs at cadets during STX lanes and patrolling in order to better determine who is fit to become an officer and who is not.

My squad and I awoke at 3:30 in the morning on the day of our first STX lanes. We were to go through the lanes for 12 hours a day and a total of four days. Each lane has a squad leader who is evaluated on how well he or she receives the order for the operation, briefs it to the squad and then executes it. A patrolling lane is similar to a STX lane, but encompasses two squads instead of only one. The lanes are physically challenging and mentally demanding, but luckily my squad was motivated throughout. We received each mission and attacked each lane with excitement. We slathered our faces in green and black paint, and we ran through each lane with determination.

After those four days of STX lanes and the two days of patrolling, I was closer to the people in my squad than I had ever been to anyone before. We had struggled through early wake-ups, exhaustion, aches, pains and awful food together, and we were better off for it. My words truly cannot do justice to the bonds that grew between the 12 of us at Fort Lewis. The closeness that develops between soldiers is one of the great gifts that people in the military receive, and for it, I am truly thankful.

Our last few days at LDAC were spent in relative calm compared to the first three weeks of our time there. The rest of my squad, besides my battle buddy and me, was ready to graduate. The two of us, however, along with all of those cadets in our regiment who had failed land navigation had one more opportunity to pass. I went out into those woods that night for my retest with determination just absolutely pumping through my veins.

When I found my last point amidst the dark and the cold, I knelt down in front of it and thanked God for everything He had given me. Through my initial defeat, I had been humbled. Through my triumph that night on the course, I was able to finally realize that this dream of mine was to be fulfilled. I feel like that night will forever mark my birth as an officer. Indeed, I will not commission as an officer until this May, but that night, with tears flowing down my cheeks and dirt clinging to the beds of my fingernails, I finally began to understand the brilliance of the journey to officership on which I had embarked. I saw that the Lord had used my time at LDAC as a time to both humble and teach me.

Two days later, I stood outside in the sunshine during our regimentís graduation ceremony. I felt as if I had sprouted wings. Afterward, I ran up to my parents and my brother. Hugging them I knew that the torch had just passed from them to me, and with that passing, the rhythm of the Army is able to continue in me. Now the American people are mine to protect, and I will do them justice.

Read other articles by Julia Mulqueen