Michelle Packer often wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to exercise. Receiving leadership, land navigation and field training are typical parts of the rest of her day.
On top of being a student, Packer is preparing for a test that will determine if she has the potential to become an officer in the U.S. Army.
Packer, criminal justice junior, is one of the Texas State ROTC students gearing up for the Leader Development and Assessment Course held every summer. The majority of the first three years cadets spend in ROTC programs are spent preparing and training for the course. It trains cadets to Army standards, develops leadership skills and determines their officer potential.
The course is held for 28 days at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and it consists of mental and physical exercises, obstacles and tests designed to measure the leadership abilities of the cadets. The Army uses the course to gain an assessment that will be added to a total file kept on each cadet, according to Lt. Col. James Adams, professor of military science. Other factors such as physical fitness and GPA determine final scores, but the assessment can hurt or help a cadet’s file tremendously, he said.
“LDAC is only 28 days but carries a lot of weight for selection on active duty or what your branch specialty field will be,” Adams said. “When cadets return from LDAC and conduct accessions for selection on active duty and branch assignments, their LDAC score is 22.5 percent of that score.”
Adams said the ROTC program at Texas State is unique compared to other universities. The models and exercises the cadets practice in class and during lab time are very similar to what they will experience in the course.
“We are offered the opportunity to use a field environment through Freeman Ranch,” Adams said. “Most schools can only conduct classroom instruction and apply practical experience a couple of times per semester. We conduct hands-on training almost every week by using tactical missions to test leadership.”
Adams stressed the importance of cadets focusing on leadership skills to prepare for the assessment course. The cadets train together in the early mornings at least three times a week. However, they must go above and beyond in their own time to prepare using the Army’s 17 leadership dimensions, Adams said.
Packer said she has spent most free time preparing for the course and is ready to take on the biggest test that will determine her future career.
“I am a little bit nervous, but I have been preparing,” Packer said. “You’re either ready or you’re not. They do a really good job preparing you for it here.”
Combat roles are now opening up for women in the military. Packer said the assessment course will start preparing women for those positions within the next two years.
Packer does not necessarily want to go into combat, but the training she is receiving is important nonetheless, she said. Her top career choices are military police or intelligence— positions where combat training could be beneficial. Packer said she is looking forward to the course because it will determine her skill level.
Kelly Walsh, psychology junior, said he is in a similar position.
“LDAC is very important to my future career in the Army,” Walsh said. “How well I do there decides if I get active duty and even what branch I get.”
Both Packer and Walsh are aiming to earn an overall “E” score on the assessment course, which stands for excellent.
The course is just another stepping stone in pursuing a military career, Packer said. She is focused on getting ready for the test now—but knows her ultimate goal for life post-military.
“I’m hoping to go FBI one day,” Packer said. “(I hope to do) something with K-9s because I have a love for animals but also my country. Besides, who messes with a chick with a big German Shepherd?”