On a chilly afternoon in November, 85 CU Boulder students in the Golden Buffalo Battalion Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corp gathered in a field south of Boulder to learn techniques for moving over land as a small unit.
Walking briskly past people out strolling with their dogs on hiking trails, the ROTC cadets wearing camouflage uniforms moved deeper into the grassy field. The field exercise served as the foundation for more advanced practical application labs later.
International affairs senior Stuart Wygant and Luke Roberson, a freshman in aerospace engineering, participated in the exercise. They are paired together as mentor and mentee in an ROTC mentorship program designed to develop leaders of character.
The mentorship program provides freshman and sophomore cadets with opportunities to learn from junior and senior cadets. Younger mentees benefit when more seasoned cadets share insights and challenges from their own experiences.
The program is structured into groups of five to seven cadets, maximizing their leadership potential while welcoming the freshmen into a supportive, dynamic community of accomplished cadets.
“By putting people together to help each other out,” Wygant said, “it’s a nice way to get to know each other when you come in as a freshman and might be lacking important skills you need to know in college, like time management. Little by little, you get more leadership opportunities through this program. It’s a good way to get experience and then become a mentor.”
When Roberson competed in the Ranger Challenge Competition, an ROTC varsity sport, the encouragement he received from experienced teammates helped him get through the events.
“The first time you compete is tough,” Roberson said. “We did some hard events. Getting encouragement from people who have done it before really helps.”
The CU Boulder ROTC Cadet Corps has 102 total cadets, which leads to a tight-knit, highly functional group. ROTC prepares students to become Army officers by teaching them leadership development, management skills and Army ethics, along with physical training. The mentorship program is an important component of that.
“In terms of day-to-day activities, they conduct their own PT, helping each other reach that Army and general lifestyle level of fitness,” said Captain Josh James, assistant professor of military science. “Mentors help mentees with their academics and generally pass on the lessons learned, what worked for them, what didn’t work over the previous three to four years. We’re seeing good results, not only with their fitness numbers but also with their GPAs, their overall attitude and level of performance. It fosters leadership qualities in a number of ways, through PT, small group study sessions, coffee breaks.”
After graduating in May, Wygant will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant Field Artillery Officer. Then he’ll attend the Basic Officers Leadership Course for Field Artillery, which includes howitzer cannons and multiple launch rocket systems. Later he’ll serve as a unit platoon leader.
“It can be daunting,” Wygant said, “but you learn to have confidence in yourself and instill confidence in your kids.”
Roberson hasn’t settled on a career path yet, but is interested in aviation.
“Being part of ROTC is like being in a family,” Roberson said. “Next year I’ll be experienced enough to mentor a freshman.”
To learn more, go to the Army ROTC Golden Buffalo Battalion at CU Boulder website.