Iowa State ROTC members earn national honors

Stefanie Buhrman

The minute an Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet steps into the ROTC program, he or she finds out that the summer between junior and senior year, most will attend the Leader Development Assessment Course in Fort Lewis, Wash.

For 29 days this past summer, 23 ISU students were rigorously tested at the course, knowing this is the most important event in their ROTC careers.

“When you are doing LDAC, you are becoming a commissioned officer in the United States Army,” said James Stenson, senior in liberal studies. “That means you are going to lead soldiers.”

Five ISU students received honors. Stenson was the No. 2 cadet of the 5th regiment. He also received the Sinclair L. Melner Award, the USAA Leadership Award and the Platoon Leadership award for his platoon.

To receive these awards, Stenson had to perform well at several tasks throughout LDAC. Through land navigation, a field leadership and readiness course, a physical training test and others, Stenson felt prepared.

Iowa State prepared us so well for this,” Stenson said. “[They were] critical in training. I can’t say enough good things. I executed confidently, and that’s why I did well at this camp. I knew what I was doing when I was there.”

Stenson stressed the big picture of LDAC success. With a combination of the performance at LDAC and a cadet’s academics, it can determine their futures in the army. At the end of LDAC, cadets are placed on an Order of Merit list that can determine their locations.

“You have the academic piece and all these three years building up to this one 29-day period,” Stenson said. “If you are good, you are going to end up at the top and get what you want.”

Stenson will graduate in May, and hopes to go to medical school to study physical medicine and rehabilitation. But he knows he has the army as a back-up plan and knew the army would always be a part of his life.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the army in some facet,” Stenson said. “I was planning on going into the army after college.”

After playing hockey at Iowa State for two years, Stenson knew he needed something different, something more. He looked into ROTC and, when he received a scholarship, joined last year.

“I’ve grown so much throughout this whole process,” Stenson said.

The ISU Army ROTC program has been regarded as high-ranking, and that showed at LDAC.

“We really cleaned house out there this summer,” Stenson said.

On top of training at LDAC, cadets were also able to attend other training sessions throughout the summer. Stenson attended air assault school, and fellow cadet Jessica Dinges, senior in psychology, attended the Northern Warfare Training Center in Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

On top of being awarded 1 of 12 spots for the Northern Warfare Training Center, Dinges was also in the top 2 percent of her training classes in the Army Physical Fitness Test at LDAC. She scored a 345 on a test that only goes to 300, normally, and strictly tests strength and endurance.

“I felt really good,” Dinges said. “It was really satisfying.”

At the Northern Warfare Training Center, cadets learn to survive and lead their troops through the terrain; maintain proficiency in cold weather and mountain operations; conduct collaborative development of Joint Forces cold weather and mountain doctrine; and conduct mountain and cold regions search and rescue/recovery operations.

Dinges had never been to Alaska prior to training, and said the experience was “definitely different.”

She described it to be dry like a desert. Although temperatures were between 50 and 60F, she witnessed heat lightning, and there was minimal night time that was actually dark.

Dinges asked about going to Alaska for northern warfare training during her junior year. After being told about the few spots, she decided to pursue it, knowing the worst case was that she wouldn’t get in and would go somewhere else.

Iowa State was awarded one spot, and because of her high placement on the Order of Merit list, she was able to get the slot.

Dinges enjoyed it and said she hopes her first duty station will be back in Alaska.

Other ROTC cadets who won: 

Trenton Fredrickson, senior in materials engineering, was the top cadet in the 7th Regiment. He also received the AUSA Leadership Excellence Award, Bank of America Award, the COMTeK Leadership Award and the Platoon Leadership award. 

Kerrie Hughes, senior in environmental science, scored 340 points on her Army Physical Fitness Test. She also received the Platoon Leadership Award. 

Justin Peterson, senior in management, ranked 5th in the 11th Regiment.