FORT KNOX, Ky. – Cadet Jillian Strong from the University of Pittsburgh, 10th Regiment, Advanced Camp, works with her fellow squad members after completing Engagement Skills Trainer at Fort Knox, Ky., July 23, 2023.

Cadet Jillian Strong from the University of Pennsylvania, Advanced Camp, 10th Regiment, aims at her target during Engagement Skills Training at Fort Knox, Ky., July 23, 2023. Strong said that getting to practice shooting at the EST has made her more confident in her own marksmanship abilities. | Photo by Kate Koennecke, Ohio State University, CST Public Affairs Office

At the EST, Cadets learn how to safely handle their weapons, while working on their shooting positions and trigger manipulation. Strong said that after completing the EST, she is going to go into future marksmanship training feeling more confident.

“The EST was super interesting because it was as realistic as you could get to a gun range from the inside of a building,” Strong said. “In any other situation I’d be a little more nervous to shoot, but I’m surrounded by the best teachers, so this has been extremely helpful.”

The EST allows Cadets to improve upon their marksmanship and break out of bad habits before the weapons qualification test that occurs later during Advanced Camp. Strong said that she appreciates the corrections she has received and was glad to get feedback from the Cadre at the EST.

“Once the rounds are over, you get those corrections, and those corrections are to help you,” Strong explained. “Corrections are not given to penalize you; they are given to make you better.”

Strong shot a 38 out of 40, nearly a perfect score, but said that she was fighting against her nerves the entire time she went through the EST. Strong was not the only Cadet from 10th Regiment that showed her mental toughness during training.  

Cadet Micah Callahan from Portland State University shared that she was sent home from Advanced Camp last summer after not making the height and weight requirements. After she was sent home, she faced more adversity, breaking off her engagement to her partner while mourning the loss of a family member.

“Honestly, I was really upset, but the people I had around me supported me,” Callahan said. “I had met with a couple of counselors when I got home, and they all assured me that I was going to get to come back next year.”

Callahan believes that overcoming these hardships has made her stronger. She explained that even if she makes mistakes during marksmanship training, she is not going to give up.

Cadet Micah Callahan from Portland State University, Advanced Camp, 10th Regiment, smiles for a photo during Engagement Skills Training at Fort Knox, Ky., July 23, 2023. Callahan believes that having empathy is one of the best attributes a leader can have. | Photo by Kate Koennecke, Ohio State University, CST Public Affairs Office

“I’ve been through a lot during my lifetime. I still get nervous, but this year I’m a lot better mentally and emotionally,” Callahan explained. “Of course, physical fitness and the fundamentals are important, but my mental agility is what has made me stand out as a leader at camp.”  

Callahan is excited to graduate from school and commission in December. Although she may have had a tough year, she said she has grown in empathy and has learned a lot about herself as a person.

“I have the emotional intelligence and leadership experience that has helped me solidify who I am as a person,” Callahan said. “I now have the perspective that everything happens for a reason, so this year I’ve really grown, and I’m really happy.”

About the Author: Kate Koennecke
Kate Koennecke
Kate Koennecke is a rising junior at The Ohio State University double-majoring in Political Science and Strategic Communications. This summer, Koennecke will be working as a Public Affairs Intern, covering events throughout Cadet Summer Training this summer as a Photojournalist. Koennecke has had many experiences working in the public sphere, including interning for the Ohio Statehouse for the Ohio Democratic Caucus in the Senate in the fall of 2022. Once this summer comes to an end, Koennecke hopes to take back her knowledge of Public Affairs back to the Buckeye state with her.