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Future officers get glimpse at real world

3rd Bde., 2nd inf. Div. Public Affairs

Published: 05:00PM July 3rd, 2014

It’s not always easy in college to decide what you want to be when you “grow up.” For United States Military Academy cadets who are all destined to be military officers, the career choices are little more limited, but not by much.

To help USMA cadets from West Point, N.Y. and ROTC cadets from programs around the country to learn about what the Army branches have to offer, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division will host the Cadet Troop Leadership Training program for more than 80 future officers throughout the summer.

The CTLT program lasts about three weeks and mostly offers cadets a glimpse into the daily lives of platoon leaders — a typical first assignment for newly commissioned officers. The first cadets arrived in June and plan to be commissioned by this time next year.

“You’re here to figure out what you want to do in your military career,” said Col. Hugh Bair, a USMA graduate and the 3rd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. commander, to the first group of CTLT cadets to arrive at his unit. “You’ll be able to interact with a lot of officers, NCOs and Soldiers. You’ve got to invest the time while you are here. This is what you’re going to be doing next year.”

The cadets partnered with junior officers during their stay at JBLM. Officers from a variety of branches are available.

During their stay, the cadets work closely with their sponsors and take part in the day-to-day activities, training and leadership of Soldiers.

“I’m here to learn what a platoon leader does,” said Kevin Whitham, a senior at USMA from Tulsa, Okla. “We’re tasked out to various branches, so right now I am working with infantry. You get some leadership advice from mentors, both officers and NCOs, and determine if you actually like what you think your potential military branch is going to be.”

Whitham has a brother who serves in the Marine Corps as an infantryman. He chose to come to JBLM because he wanted to work with Stryker vehicles.

“I heard that Lewis had the best Stryker brigades,” he said.

Since arriving, Whitham has shadowed 1st Lt. Stephen Knotts, an infantry platoon leader with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div.

“I’ve had some really good opportunities to see what the platoon leader actually does and what daily life is like,” Whitham said.

For Knotts, CTLT give him a chance to pass on hard-earned experience to the next generation of Army officers.

“We want to give them some of the experience of what we do as an officer,” Knotts said. “I want to give him the experience of working with NCOs. I want to make sure he understands how valuable they are.”

Arrowhead Soldiers and NCOs helped Knotts introduce Whitham to Army training on everything from physical training to basic infantry skills. Knotts never had the opportunity take part in the CTLT program.

“If I was fresh and never had any experience in the military prior to going to the academy or ROTC, I probably would have really sought out an opportunity like this to get that picture if this is something that I really wanted to do,” he said.

Knotts said this is perfect opportunity for the cadets to learn about their potential future military occupations and to seek out advice from officers and NCOs who work in those career fields.

He is also teaching Whitham that what you learn in college, while important, isn’t going to make you a great leader. That takes daily mentorship and advice from the Soldiers you work with.

“Yes, you have the training, that education, but they have that experience and you need to develop that relationship and rely on them,” Knotts said. “It doesn’t matter how good you are as a Soldier, as an officer, as a leader, you’re only as good as the guy to your left and right, because if they fail, you’re failing. As a leader, you’re in a position of service; you’re there to help them, to develop them.”

3rd Brigade’s CTLT program will continue throughout the summer and help shape and mentor future Army officers.