James Madison University

JMU Nursing Faculty Attend ROTC Leadership Course at Ft. Lewis

by Monty Gross, PhD, RN, CNE


The quote “Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other” is from a speech written for John F. Kennedy he was to deliver the day he was assassinated. This quote is manifested in the JMU nursing students participation in the Army ROTC program.

In July, Drs. Margret Bagnardi, Sharon Strang and Monty Gross traveled to Ft. Lewis, Washington to attend the Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) hosted by United States Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).  LDAC, also known as Warrior Forge, is the capstone event of the ROTC training program. The purpose of our faculty attending this event was to gain a better understanding of how the students are prepared as leaders in the Army ROTC program. The nursing faculty also had the opportunity to visit Madigan Army Medical Center.  This is where future Army nurses will train during the Nurse Summer Training Program (NSTP).  Army personnel provided a tour and demonstrated their state-of-the-art simulation training center.


In the spring semester of 2009, an invitation was sent for faculty asking them to volunteer to attend LDAC. Interested faculty completed a brief application and sent it to the ROTC office on campus. Shortly thereafter, the faculty members received “orders” and travel arrangements were made by the very responsive and accommodating ROTC personnel.

While at LDAC, the nursing faculty witnessed ROTC cadets engaged in leadership training. John Anthony once said, “The only real training for leadership is leadership”. The Army manifests this quote by incorporating opportunities for each cadet to practice and learn leadership skills. During a cadet’s time in the ROTC program, he or she is rotated into leadership roles where they take charge of fellow cadet teams. Given a team task, the cadet is required to demonstrate leadership knowledge and skills to accomplish a task or mission. After completing the task, each cadet is evaluated and given on-the-spot feedback on their performance so they can learn and improve their leadership ability.

An example of a team-task that faculty witnessed occurred when the team leader was given a mission to lead his team, along with several heavy ammunition boxes, to the far side of two vertical 8 foot poles. The poles were spaced approximately 8 feet apart. Only a brief period of time was given to accomplish the mission. The cadets were given a rope and a long plank to accomplish the task. They could not walk between or touch the poles. The team had to go on and over the poles. If they touched the poles or dropped an item, they would receive a time penalty. Through leadership, team-work and trial and error the mission most often was accomplished. After the time period, a cadre composed of experienced non-commissioned and commissioned officers evaluated the cadet’s leadership performance. Cadets developed leadership skills whether the mission was accomplished or not.  To ensure fair and consistent evaluation, the Army cadre evaluators were themselves assessed by comparing scores to other evaluators.


Faculty also got to have some fun while at Ft. Lewis. When the Army moves a group from one location to another, it is called a “movement”. One movement was to the weapons range. Everyone had the opportunity to fire M-16 rifles, M-60 machine guns, light anti-tank weapons and throw “training” hand grenades.  Another movement was to the repelling tower. Repelling down a 35 foot vertical wall was another thrilling movement - literally! Another movement was to a formal dinner where everyone wore their dresses, suits or uniform. Several JMU nursing students attended and shared their experiences at LDAC.

A non- formal dining experience was the Ready-to-Eat Meal ( MRE’s) and the cadet’s dining hall food.  An MRE is the Army’s version of a meal in a bag. Spaghetti with meat sauce, Mac-n-cheese, and chili are just a sample of the high caloric entrees in the MRE. Each MRE included a powdered beverage mix and a condiment pack which included coffee, creamer, sugar, salt, napkin, wet napkin, and spoon. The faculty found the MRE experience to be interesting if not tasty. The dining hall was in old World War II buildings that were designed to last about five years. The food was not what we would call home cooking, but it was much better than the MRE. No one had an excuse to be hungry!

Faculty took advantage of being in Washington by extending their return flight dates so some sightseeing could be enjoyed. There are plenty of things to see and do in the Ft. Lewis/Seattle area. Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic National Park provide spectacular views and hiking opportunities. Seattle provided faculty with many sightseeing and dining opportunities. Pike Market, the Ride-The-Duck and Elliot’s restaurant are highly recommended.

Most of all the opportunity to participate in the ROTC LDAC illustrated how valuable the ROTC programs are on our university campuses to develop nursing leadership. Vince Lombardi said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”  Seeing our nursing students engaged in the ROTC LDAC Course illustrates that our ROTC nursing students are leaders in the making! When the next opportunity is presented to attend the ROTC LDAC, take advantage of it. You too will see how “Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other”!