Behind the Scenes: U.S. Army Officer Training at Fort Knox
America is great not because we’re indestructible or the best, but because we’re built on the idea of freedom. That’s because there are people who are willing to give everything to protect it.
This summer, I was privileged to work as a photojournalist on the public affairs team covering cadet summer training at Fort Knox. I gained unique insight from the inside on the rigorous training our army officers endure.
Cadets arrive by the bus load from their schools. They first partake in Shakedown.
Their bags are emptied and rifled through by cadre members, which are commanding officers. The purpose is to identify contraband or restricted items such as blades longer than 3 inches, multi-tools, food and supplements.
Cadets aren’t allowed to have phones for the duration of training.
After shakedown, they’re assigned a bed in a barrack, which will be their new home for the next month.
Cadet’s height and weight are recorded upon arrival. They must meet a certain height to weight quota in order to train.
The harsh realities of Basic and Advanced Camp at Fort Knox then set in.
Cadets attend Basic Camp as freshman and sophomores in college.
Juniors and seniors attend Advanced Camp.
Cadets are broken up into different platoons, and then different companies within that platoon (Alpha, Bravo, etc.).
Cadets bear the brunt of rigorous training, like the 12 mile ruck march. Ruck sacks are estimated to weigh about 45 lbs.
Cadets are up before sunrise. Physical training begins at 4 a.m.
They’re put through a push up, sit up and running examination. They must meet a certain goal to graduate.
Additionally, rifle qualification must be passed in order to graduate.
Cardboard and pop-up targets are used to measure cadet success.
Cadets also must endure the perils of the CS Gas Chamber.
Cadets must remove their masks and recite their name and where they are from while fully exposed to the fumes.
The purpose is to show them that they can trust their equipment.
Imagine walking into a room of pepper spray. From personal experience, I would describe it as a prickly, burning sensation. It often clears cadets’ nasal passages, leaving them dripping with mucus.
Cadets must undergo obstacle courses.
These challenging courses teach cadets how to trust one another and work together as a team.
They also get experience with real world situations that they could face on the battlefield.
Cadets are sent on missions where they face enemy forces, under the supervision and discretion of cadre members.
Plans are drawn up.
Moves are made.
Cadets are then sent to Atropia, a mock country in the Middle East where they face enemy forces on their own with no direction from cadre.
They stay in the forest for up to five days at a time.
The end goal is for Americans to form an alliance with the Atropians.
However, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Cadet summer training and protecting our nation is not for the faint of heart.
To follow cadet summer training, click here.