I attended Cadet Officer Leadership School at Fayetteville State University this summer. The experience came to me as a sophomore, and I am glad it did. While I was eager to attend as a freshmen, I think that the year in JROTC prepared me to get the most out of my COLS program. I know much more about the Air Force after only a year of training, and I also know what to look for in an experience like COLS. How do the leaders treat us? What do the other cadets need to succeed? And how can I develop the traits of leadership that I have already started to develop? All of these questions affirmed that COLS benefited me more as a sophomore. I did not realize this until I attended the training school. Only during that week did I realize how far I have come since entering the JROTC program.
The week was rigorous. Two things surprised me from the beginning. First, the attention to detail and amount of rules astounded me. I already knew that the Air Force enforced strict regulations. I know that uniform inspection requires attention to detail and normal activities at the high school include a list of rules. However, none of this prepared me for the extent to which these rules appeared at COLS. The objects in my drawer required a precise placement. My shoes and clothes were kept on in certain places and in a certain fashion. And the schedule was to the minute. The cadre did not chew me out regularly, although I did receive a few reprimands. Once I misplaced my trousers on the shelf and faced the penalty, but only after a barking: “What were you thinking!? You weren’t, were you!?” The demand for details and rules surpassed an JROTC experience or time living at home. But this is not a complaint. I welcome the restrictions, and will elaborate on this later.

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Second, the schedule surprised me. But not its severity. I thought a 4 a.m. wake up time would destroy me and totally ruin my week. However, I found that by day two, I was able to get up with little trouble. And by day three, I was ready to get on with the day. The amount of mental strain and the rigorous PT caused me to sleep so well, that I felt well rested by four in the morning. While I don’t plan to keep that schedule now, I was surprised at how little it bothered me. The morning PT session was also nice. I feel stronger than ever right now, and do want to maintain a more grueling exercise routine.

So the week was difficult. But I would not trade it for a week anywhere else. The rigor of COLS taught me how good it feels to keep a structured schedule. Often my friends want to hang out with no plans, and sometimes my teachers are very go with the flow. But I discovered that routine and structure bring more satisfaction to my days than a day with no plans. Also, the example of the leaders will always stick with me. Even though they had no patience for our mistakes and stupidity, I could tell they really cared about us. One time, I saw a boy getting chewed out after forgetting something. The leader appeared more cruel than ever, but I spoke with the other cadet afterwards. He said that the treatment was just what he needed. He thought that people who don’t get angry and enforce rules actually don’t care about you. I thought that was profound and hope to develop as a quality leader. Maybe I will return to COLS next year as a Cadre Leader.