Last Updated: June 13th, 2024By

FORT KNOX, Ky — Cadets with 1st Regiment Advanced camp tackle the Rappel Tower as part of Cadet Summer Training on Fort Knox, Kentucky, June 12, 2024. While suspended 64 feet in the air, Cadets use the equipment provided to lower themselves to the ground while performing safety checks along the way.

Cadets with 1st Regiment Advanced Camp act as the belay for Cadets as they go down the Rappel Tower on Fort Knox, Ky., June 12, 2024. Once a Cadet is off of the wall, they must hold the rope on the ground below to provide stability for the Cadet as they rappel. | Morgan Edwards, Virginia Tech, CST Public Affairs Office

While at the top of the tower, nerves start to take over and it can be easy for Cadets to forget why they are here and why they decided to take this kind of path. For every Cadet, it is different.

“I am already prior service, and I see all the officers at my drill unit, and it is honestly very inspiring to be able to lead a whole lot of troops,” said Cadet Khristine Reyes-Guerrero, University of Central Arkansas.

ROTC is built to train the U.S. Army’s future leaders while in a college setting. Getting a high level of education while training to serve the country provides an experience that allows students to apply what they have learned and trained for to the service directly out of college. Similar to Cadet Reyes-Guerrero, it also can be used as a steppingstone for those who are prior enlisted to enhance their leadership skills and provide more opportunities within their career.

Sometimes, the urgency to help others inspires individuals to join the service.  “I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” Said Cadet Taylor Shultz, Virginia Tech. “A lot of people come into the Army sometimes because that’s their only option and I want to be there for those people and help them,” said Shultz.

Helping not only soldiers in the Army but also the American Public as a whole goes beyond ROTC and into careers that can be applied both in and out of the Army.

“I wanted to attend college with a dream of becoming an army doctor,” said Cadet Mikaela Qaqish, Siena College. “I am able to serve my country and serve the soldiers that are fighting and work to save their lives and doing that would give me some sort of gratitude.”

Cadets with 1st Regiment Advanced Camp prepare to scale the Rappel Tower on Fort Knox, Ky., June 12, 2024. Cadets must practice how to proceed down the wall, belay and properly set up a Swiss seat before they can continue. The practice is to ensure Cadets remain safe on and off of the tower. | Morgan Edwards, Virginia Tech, CST Public Affairs Office



Some Cadets join because it runs in the family. Cadet Gabi Harris, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, joined because her older brother participated in ROTC at the University of South Florida and seeing how many opportunities and the amount of fun he had during his time, inspired her to also pursue a path in ROTC. “The program offers a lot of opportunities that you can’t get outside of the army,” said Harris. “You also make a lot of new friends and build lifelong connections that you will cherish.”

Cadet Gabi Harris, 1st Regiment Advanced Camp, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, works to regain her balance on the free fall portion of the Rappel Tower on Fort Knox, Ky., June 12, 2024. The free fall portion of Rappel Tower Training trains Cadets to apply the same maneuvers they previously used to scale down without a support wall. | Morgan Edwards, Virginia Tech, CST Public Affairs Office

Leadership is a reoccurring theme within the ROTC program and becoming an officer in the Army. However, not every Cadet comes to CST or ROTC with an abundance of prior leadership experience.

Cadets with 1st Regiment Advanced Camp descend down the Rappel Tower on Fort Knox, Ky., June 12, 2024. The 64-foot Rappel Tower provides the Cadets with the opportunity to gain confidence by facing their fears. | Morgan Edwards, Virginia Tech, CST Public Affairs Office

“I had a lot of discipline, but I was lacking in the leadership aspect,” said Cadet Justin Lee, University of Southern California. “At any level you have to be able to communicate with others. Whether it’s your boss or your subordinates, you have to be able to listen to others, guide others, teach others and also learn from others.”

Cadets undergo stressful training events such as the Rappel Tower to remember their why and better understand the importance of CST, ROTC and the overall mission of the U.S. Army.

About the Author: Morgan Edwards