Imagine sleeping on cold concrete with nothing but a sleeping bag, only to wake up at the crack of dawn, march into the middle of the forest and do rigorous exercises for several hours in the rain. When it’s over, you’re covered with dirt and sweat. This is how the students at Duke University and N.C. Central University’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps spent a recent weekend.
On the weekend of Nov. 6, Duke and NCCU ROTC program held their annual Leadership Development Exercise (LDX) training at Camp Butner in Rougemont, N.C. It’s all courage, bravery, strength and perseverance, a challenge the cadets take on to face their fears head-on and conquer the tasks they face.
It’s a great time for the Duke-NCCU battalion to prepare for the realities of military life.
“The LDX has actually put our skills that we learn in the classroom to the test,” said NCCU criminal justice senior Trayton Hendrix.
“We have the hands-on approach with [LDX] and you could only learn so much from a book, you actually have to apply it.”
Sunday’s exercise included obstacle courses that had wall-climbing, barbed wire crawls and maneuvering under high rope bridges.
Battalion leader and NCCU senior cadet Houda Ouardi advised her cadets to proceed with caution, warning them that they could get injured doing the challenges. She even recounted her own experience of breaking her knee last year doing the obstacle courses. She ended up using crutches for months.
The ROTC exercise doesn’t just build mental and physical strength — it’s also designed to strengthen bonds between battalion members at different ranks and from different walks of life.
“I feel like the seniors this year did a really great job with incorporating the freshmen and the sophomores this year,” said NCCU elementary education sophomore Taylor Ritch.
“The freshmen this year are very strong. They have a good cohesive bond together. They have definitely shown class camaraderie and I feel like that is the way to go.”
The newcomers struggled, but the seniors guided them along the way and helped them pull through the day’s challenges.
Hendrix said he understands the struggle beginning cadets face and that it was difficult for him at first, too. The result of the exercise is a growing sense of leadership.
“[LDX] gives MS-4s, seniors and the actual leadership, the instructors, a chance to look at what kind of people they are,” he said.
“There was pouring rain and it wasn’t the funnest of atmospheres, but we get to see their true personalities. We saw their true colors come out and see if they’re able to embrace it because if they’re not able to embrace the rain, then they can’t embrace the Army.”