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Four Army ROTC cadets with their arms over one another's shoulders, standing in a line.
Army ROTC cadets stand together during training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Photo by Tina Le.

In early April, nearly 160 junior and senior Army ROTC cadets from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, led a five-day comprehensive training program at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for cadets from four Tennessee universities. Students trained under realistic and challenging conditions to prepare for Cadet Summer Training, an annual training event organized by the US Army Cadet Command.

This year’s field training exercise was the largest so far, with 300 cadets in attendance from several of UT’s campuses—including Knoxville, Martin, and Chattanooga—and Carson-Newman University.

Lalia Stalions
Lalia Stalions

“It was great to get leadership reps and exercise what we had learned throughout the year while getting to know other students from other schools,” said Lalia Stalions, a cadet and junior sociology major from Clarksville, Tennessee. “After having that experience, I feel much more confident for camp. I feel strong as a leader and comfortable leading my peers.”

The program provided rigorous training opportunities that emphasized the demonstration of leadership attributes and competencies. All leaders in the Army, including cadets, are evaluated in six core areas: character, presence, intellect, leadership, development, and achievement. Cadets were certified in rifle marksmanship, conducted day and night land navigation, and completed an eight-mile ruck march. The program ended with a field leaders reaction course.

Senior cadets worked with Lieutenant Colonel Justin Howe, professor of military science and the director of UT’s Army ROTC, and his staff to develop and oversee the nearly week-long training exercise.

“During those few months, seniors are planning, preparing, and executing the training,” said Howe. “They’re doing things that captains in the Army are doing on a daily basis after four or five years of active service.”

Senior cadets facilitated a realistic field training environment and evaluated junior cadets who led their peers through tactical missions. The tactical training was broken up into several missions including ambush, attack to defend, reconnaissance, and raid. Platoon leadership positions were assigned to junior cadets at the beginning of each mission, and they were tasked with developing a plan to lead their peers in completing the mission.

“One of the biggest challenges is that you need to fully understand the different intricacies for each possible position so that you’re prepared and tactically proficient for the mission,” Stalions said.

Stalions and the 69 other juniors who led training missions saw their roles as an opportunity to serve as peer mentors. “We care about the younger cadets’ learning experience and want them to do well in the future,” Stalions said.

That influence extended beyond UT’s cadets as they learned how to collaborate with other programs. The participating schools’ cadets applied one another’s specific cultures and standards of operations to their own programs.

Tina Le
Tina Le

“It’s a better experience because it’s more like camp,” said Tina Le, a cadet and senior business analytics and marketing major from Johnson City, Tennessee. “You don’t know these people, but you want to all get on the same level and conduct a successful mission.”

UT’s program is considered among the best senior Army ROTC programs in the United States. In 2020, it received a MacArthur Award for excellence in performance, retention, and training. Out of 274 programs nationwide, only eight received the prestigious distinction. Over the past three years, cadet enrollment has grown by 28 percent.

Notably, more than a third of UT’s cadets (35 percent) are women, compared to 19 percent in the current Army Officer Corps. Last year, the university commissioned 46 officers, placing it among the top 10 commissioning programs in the US.

On April 8, Governor Bill Lee signed legislation to allow all ROTC students to receive in-state tuition. According to Howe, 60 percent of UT’s cadets are from out of state, coming from 26 states around the country.

“This is going to provide a pathway not only to college education but a pathway to service and allow students to make a career in the military,” Howe said.

Eighty junior cadets from the four universities will return to Fort Knox this summer for an additional five weeks of training before commissioning as Army officers in 2023.



Brian Canever (865-974-0937,

Justin Howe (865-974-8863,