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An Army Summer, Part 1

Nathan Hall

I’m handwriting this post from atop an M1A2 Abrams tank somewhere on Fort Riley, Kansas! It’s been a long time coming (what’s new, Nathan taking too long between posts) and I’m not sure where it’ll end up, but this is effectively my sequel to “42 Days of Summer,” a sort of “What I’ve Done Since That Last Post Ages Ago.”

A picture of me writing this very post?? Atop a tank??? It can't be topped.

My Army summer has consisted of two parts – LDAC, a 29-day training and assessment course at Fort Lewis, Washington, and my current pastime, CTLT (Cadet Troop Leader Training), a three week “training event” that serves as ROTC‘s version of job shadowing. I’m attached at the moment to a Second Lieutenant (a Platoon Leader) learning what the day-to-day schedule looks like for a new officer. For the first week, this was PT in the mornings, different training meetings and spending time in the tank simulators through the afternoon, and being released to hang out a little bit in the evenings before an early bedtime. Sunday morning the schedule took a turn for the epic as we traveled out to “gunnery,” the tanker’s complicated version of a marksmanship range. Four-man tank crews run through different “engagements” and are scored not only on whether they successfully hit targets but on crew procedure and communication. The inside of a tank is a pretty cramped, dangerous and potentially chaotic space, so it’s important for the crews to work together properly and effectively.

Chillin' out, maxin' and relaxin' all cool. On a tank.

While the tanks run through the course, I’m spending time sitting on the ones that are still in the queue, talking to the crew members about their jobs, about the kind of leadership they expect in a Lieutenant, stuff like that. It’s coming on 99F right now, so the weather does make repeated appearances in these conversations; the top of a tank is not the coolest of locations (temperature-wise, that is. It’s pretty cool otherwise). Talking about leadership with the soldiers I’ll end up leading in a few short years (not cool, Time, not cool) has been by far the most valuable piece of this experience. Seeing how a PL works is important and helpful, and getting a lot of experience as far as operating and maintaining a platoon of tanks goes has been a one-of-a-kind summer adventure, but being able to sit with the young men who have signed up to serve their country and hear what they look for and want and need in a leader is incredibly inspiring. It definitely makes me excited to come back to school and develop myself further in my final year!

As far as summer internships go, you’ll hear about quite a few impressive and exciting ones from my fellow writers here at Inside ‘Dores, though I doubt you’ll hear about any quite like mine. It’s a departure from the routine at Vanderbilt, but the summer has been a great chance to test out some of the not-strictly-academic skills I’ve picked up at school. Strong leadership, innovative thinking and working as part of a team are all valuable and important in an ROTC and, in the future, in an Army setting, and are all areas in which I’ve developed at Vandy.

More about CTLT and at least one post about LDAC to follow!

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