Sending cadets to learn from military officers has deep-seated roots at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The academy has been sending cadets to train with active duty officers under the Cadet Troop Leader Training program since at least the 1920s, said West Point spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker.
In nearly 100 years of sending cadets to military installations, 21-year-old Cadet Mitchell Alexander Winey is the only cadet in the academy’s records to have died during the mandatory three-week course, he said.
Winey and eight active duty soldiers died when their vehicle overturned in flood waters June 2. Three soldiers were rescued and were able to return to work.
Putting cadets with a mentor began with installations along the East Coast and then grew to encompass installations across the continental United States and abroad during the 20th Century, Kasker said.
“Cadets attend Cadet Troop Leader Training once during either of the final two summers at the Military Academy, and it’s a graduation requirement for cadets,” he said. “Having the opportunity to work with soldiers, a platoon sergeant, company commander, first sergeant and other leaders in a company provides an experience that will shape and influence the rest of a cadet’s time at West Point. It provides cadets a foundation to inform their self-development and how they want to grow as a leader.”
Just about every Army post supports the cadet training, Kasker said. The Academy submits a request to the Department of the Army in October of each year requesting support, posts report the number of cadets they could support to the Army and then the Academy assigns the cadets to a military installation based on a number of factors — to include class rank, post preference, desired branch and summer schedule.
“The primary objective of CTLT is to provide upper class cadets with a realistic leadership experience in the operating force where cadets confirm their branch preference and self-identify any remaining developmental needs as they approach commissioning,” he said.
Kasker said cadets are expected to come back with an understanding of the command, training, administrative and logistical functions of a company-level unit and the responsibilities of newly-assigned lieutenants, gain familiarity with the on- and off-duty environment of a junior officer and developing leadership skills in an environment where the cadet is individually responsible for his or her performance, conduct, military competence and physical fitness.
“By the time a cadet is selected for CTLT, they have completed numerous Army training events and understand the fundamental safety procedures directed by the Army,” he added. “There is a clear expectation that all units place the same emphasis on the training and care of our cadets as they do for all soldiers.”
Units provide the cadet with an officer sponsor. Upon completion of the experience, the unit provides an evaluation of the cadet’s readiness to serve as an officer, Kasker said.
“Fort Hood is the gold standard for training our nation’s soldiers, and it is imperative it remains as such,” said U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin. “The tragedy that took place is heartbreaking. These men and women have so honorably answered the call to serve their country, and we must ensure they are provided the tools to carry out their missions.”
The accident highlights the dangers soldiers put themselves through on a daily basis for the sake of the nation, said U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.
“The men and women at Fort Hood are truly a blessing to our great nation. Last week’s tragedy illuminates the inherent risks our soldiers take every day, outside of the spotlight, day in and day out, across this nation in preparation for war,” Carter said. “It is imperative that we ensure our men and women of the military, including our cadets, receive the best training and are provided the tools necessary to be successful. It is an honor to have such men and women that are willing to sacrifice so much, so that we may remain free.”