FORT KNOX, Ky. – Cadets from 5th Regiment, Advanced Camp, completed the Field Training Exercise at Fort Knox, Ky., July 12, 2023. During the FTX, Cadets first start the training mission at the objective rally point, where they plan for the attack using the troop-leading procedures in order to destroy or defeat the opposing forces, and seize, and secure terrain.

Cadet Cassandra Pichardo from Olivet Nazarene University, 5th Regiment, Advanced Camp, team leader, pulls security during the attack training mission at Fort Knox, Ky., July 12, 2023. An attack is where Cadets destroy or defeat the opposing forces, seize, and secure terrain. | Photo by Thaliya Martinez, Olivet Nazarene University, CST Public Affairs Office

Cadet Cassandra Pichardo from Olivet Nazarene University mentioned her role during the attack.

“My role was alpha team leader,” Pichardo said. “I was taking care of my people, and making sure that they were all ready to go.”

Cadets take 2-3 hours to conduct a mission. Pichardo mentioned the purpose of spending all those hours conducting missions.

“Get the advantage of certain terrain and key locations that way we can have more of an advantage as we move forward through different missions,” Pichardo said.

Pichardo stated earlier that she was the alpha TL. The job of a TL is to help your squad leader with your team and to take charge while the SL is away helping the platoon leader. Pichardo mentioned what the attack taught her as a leader when she did not have her SL with her.

“Even in the smallest roles, when nobody’s looking, it is still important to do the right thing. To check on your people even when you’re tired and even when eyes are not on you,” Pichardo said. “It’s important to still uphold what’s expected of you.”

Cadets are constantly rucking [35-40 pound backpack], through a difficult environment with rough terrain, ticks, snakes, and wildlife. Most days they are rained on and stepping in huge red muddy puddles. It can be hard for Cadets to find encouragement when put in an environment like this. Pichardo mentioned what helped her stay positive.

“Going to God in every single moment of the day. If it’s just to thank him that I didn’t get injured. [From] running around this crazy hilly, swampy, wet, cold, and super high area. I’m really grateful,” Pichardo said. “God and my faith have been the biggest thing that has kept a big smile on my face, and able to help others have that big smile as well.”

Cadet Cassandra Pichardo from Olivet Nazarene University, 5th Regiment, Advanced Camp, listens to the after-action review with her platoon at Fort Knox, Ky., July 12, 2023. The AAR provides Cadets with positive feedback on how to improve on future missions. | Photo by Thaliya Martinez, Olivet Nazarene University, CST Public Affairs Office

Pichardo mentioned ways that God has shown himself to her platoon through her.

“People who are struggling are able to confide in me [because] I’m more willing to step out of my comfort zone,” Pichardo said. “God is showing me, there’s an opportunity to serve the people around me and to show them how much God loves them.”

Pichardo continued, “I had a [battle] buddy who rolled her ankle. I was able to give her a piggyback ride so she wouldn’t have to walk on it and I know that’s God’s way of showing her that He loves her through the things that I get to do,” Pichardo said. “I’ve been journaling, praying, and reflecting on the day. I’m praying with my battle buddies, especially ones who are hurt or need hope.”

Pichardo mentioned a Bible verse that she used to help her when training at the FTX phase during Advanced Camp.

“Joshua 1:9, he’s actually a soldier and he’s leading these troops. ‘Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged for the Lord, your God will be with you wherever you go,’” Pichardo quoted. 

Pichardo reflected on her connection to Joshua 1:9, “Knowing that I’m never alone and that God is right by me,” Pichardo said. “I continue to pray that He guides me to what I can do to show love, to show the goodness that I have received, and that helps me not to be afraid.”

After hearing about Pichardo’s experience with the FTX, she wants you to know that wherever you are, you can get through anything when you keep your eyes focused on God.

About the Author: Thaliya Martinez
Thaliya Martinez
Thaliya Martinez is from Evanston, Illinois and attends Olivet Nazarene University. She majors in Multimedia Communications with a concentration in Film Studies along with a minor in Military Science and Military Affairs. Her passion for photography and videography started when she was young. Her passion for photography and videography grew stronger from capturing her soccer, cross country, and track and field team in high school. Also, working as a professional sports videographer and photojournalist for MileSplit Illinois. In college, she has some experience of being a Cadet Public Affairs Officer from her Rolling Thunder Battalion Army ROTC program. Her goal for the internship is to let God lead the way in her showing the world the 100% that the Cadets put in every day and that there’s more behind these Cadets then just them in uniform. Thaliya wants to strengthen her night photography, audio skills, and writing skills while interning for the Army ROTC Public Affairs CST team at Fort Knox.