UofL held its first Army ROTC class in 1982. The program has since become one of the best in the country.
Earlier this year, for example, the Cardinal Battalion Ranger Team finished in the top 10 at the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition in West Point, New York.
And, over the summer, UofL sent 21 juniors to Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox. There, 48% of the class earned an overall rating of “outstanding,” which means that 48% of our cadets are ranked in the top 15% of cadets in the nation, according to Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. Dargavell, Department Chair and Professor of Military Science.
The Fort Knox event is the largest exercise the Army conducts every year, with about 6,000 cadets competing from May through August.
Dargavell said our cadets always do well, but this year was exceptional.
In addition to the “outstanding” ratings, seven cadets earned the title of “RECONDO,” awarded for overall physical and mental testing performance. The RECONDO badge is awarded to cadets who exceed the standards in physical testing, confidence courses, land navigation, marksmanship, First Aid, and the 6-mile foot march. They must also compete in a litany of tasks to standard – the 12-mile foot march, 8-mile foot march, hand grenade assault course and more.
Further, five out of 21 cadets were ranked No. 1 overall in their platoon, with one cadet ranked No. 1 in his regiment, which includes 640 cadets.
Seven cadets were ranked No. 1 in peer evaluations.
“I’m prouder of this accomplishment than the others. These are peer evaluations, not just what you are physically capable of doing or the intellect you have. It’s a whole-person assessment and it shows you have the character we’re looking for. It speaks to who you are,” Dargavell said.
Dargavell is a part of UofL’s Cardinal Principles work group and said such peer evaluations align with those principles – community of care, accountability, respect, diversity/inclusion, integrity/transparency, noble purpose, agility and leadership.
Aspiring toward those Cardinal Principles is just part of what makes UofL’s Army ROTC program so successful.
“It is a totality of things associated with the University of Louisville. We have a lot of support from the administration, we have really good cadets and we have really good instructors focused on realistic training,” Dargavell said. “We also have support from the Kentucky National Guard and we’re right next to Fort Knox, so our cadets get the chance to experience a real-life environment before they’re tested on it.”
He expects this success to continue. For the past two years, one-third of UofL’s Army ROTC class has been labeled a distinguished military graduate and Dargavell projects that number to grow.
“I’ve charged our seniors with training our underclassmen on being better than them and they take that very seriously,” he said. “They are training how to be officers of character and better leaders.”
Some of UofL’s biggest highlights from Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox include:
- Jeffrey Newton: No. 1 overall cadet in 5th Regiment (approximately 650 cadets in a regiment); No. 1 overall cadet in his platoon, earned the performance rating of Outstanding (top 15%); No. 1 on peer evaluations, earned the RECONDO Badge and scored a 600 on the Army Combat Fitness Test.
- Kendal Covington: No. 1 overall cadet in his platoon; earned the performance rating of Outstanding (top 15%); No. 1 on peer evaluations. Additionally, he graduated for The United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
- Andrew McHale: While at Cadet Summer Training he earned No. 1 overall cadet in his platoon, earned the performance rating of Outstanding (top 15%).
- Olivia Jerolaman: No. 1 overall cadet in her platoon; earned the performance rating of Outstanding (top 15%); No. 1 on peer evaluations; earned the RECONDO Badge.
- Emily Bleska: No. 1 overall cadet in his platoon; earned the performance rating of Outstanding (top 15%). She was also selected to be the Cadet Battalion Commander (top ranked cadet) for this semester within UofL Army ROTC. Additionally, she graduated from the United States Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
- Paul Kotarski: Earned the performance rating of Outstanding (top 15%); No. 1 on peer evaluations; earned the RECONDO Badge. Additionally, he attended Cadet Troop Leader Training in Grafenwöhr, Germany.
- Steve Beza: Earned the performance rating of Outstanding (top 15%); No. 1 on peer evaluations; and earned the RECONDO Badge.