FORT KNOX, Kentucky – Army senior leaders will decide as early as this week on what to do about ROTC cadet summer training here in light of the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the world, according to Army officials.
“We hope to present options to Army senior leaders as early as this week, but I will do everything in my power to commission cadets on time,” said Maj. Gen. John Evans, Commanding General of Army ROTC Cadet Command.
Every summer, several thousand Army ROTC cadets converge on Fort Knox for a month of training in order to be commissioned as lieutenants in the Army. Evans and his staff conducted a town hall meeting on Facebook March 26 to update cadets, cadre and family members on the effect of the crisis on cadet summer training and 2020 commissioning timelines.
CST is held every year at Disney Barracks, the area of Fort Knox where armor crewmen and cavalry scouts underwent training before the Armor School moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2011.
The forecast for CST 2020 included 7,000 cadets for advanced camp (the cohort of rising college seniors), and 1,900 for the basic camp (rising juniors who decided halfway through their college career to join ROTC, and train to get credit for the first two years of ROTC).
To support this effort, more than 5,000 cadre from Cadet Command ROTC detachments, along with regular Army, Reserve and National Guard personnel, come to Fort Knox, said Rich Patterson, Cadet Command Deputy PAO.
“The original dates had been May 23-Aug. 16,” Patterson said Tuesday, “with 11 Regiments training through a 35-day advanced camp cycle, and three Regiments training in a 31-day cycle for the basic camp.”
Patterson did not know when Army leaders would decide on the fate of CST 2020, but stressed that Army Cadet Command would “meet our accession mission while training cadets to the standard regardless of what form CST takes.”
Officials said that options included a shortened version of CST, or to cancel the event altogether.
“Not having the opportunity to attend advanced camp this summer will not prevent you from becoming a lieutenant,” Evans told cadets during the town hall meeting last week.
“It does mean that you’ll have to work a little bit harder when you get to your officer basic course, but I know you’re up to that task.
“Let me assure you that no cadet will be disadvantaged by virtue of not having an opportunity to complete training that would normally be required for the ROTC commissioning experience,” he added.
Brig. Gen. Antonio Munera, the deputy commanding general, said that “CST will probably not be conducted how we’ve done it in the past; we expect it to be a little bit truncated.”
“You need you to be flexible, and take accountability to yourselves and stay physically fit,” Munera told cadets.
Every year a number of cadets who were injured during CST return after their senior year to complete the commissioning requirement. This year 416 cadets are set to return, and Evans said he will “maximize my waiver authority to insure (these cadets) are commissioned on time.”
Evans could not speak to specific measures available to test for COVID-19 prior to CST, but stressed that “we will make sure that cadets are safe and healthy.”
He sought to reassure cadets about the near-term effect of an economic slowdown on their service timeline. “There is nothing that I’m seeing signaled right now that would reduce the number of lieutenants that we currently have in the pipeline.
“It’s exceptionally rare for the Army to curtail the service of lieutenants,” he said.
Evans concluded the hour-long meeting by saying “these are uncommon times. None of us have ever experienced anything like this. Continue to be patient as we work our way through this.”