5 Tips to Survive BOLC

 

 

It’s the time of year when we commission our new Lieutenants and they take the next step in their Army journey.  2LT Andrew Nelden was one of our graduates last year.  When he returned over the new year for as stint as a home town recruiter before reporting to his first duty station I asked him to give me some lessons learned from his Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC).  Here are his thoughts.
Cadet NeldenI recently graduated Ordnance BOLC in Fort Lee, Virginia and wanted to pass along a few tips to MSIVs and other new LTs headed there.  BOLC is an excellent learning experience and prepares you to head to your first duty station.  You have the chance to meet other LTs from around the country and have the opportunity to learn from them as well.  A Captain will be assigned as your TAC officer and assist you in learning your branch so you have the most current information the school house has to offer.  To maximize your experience there, here are a few tips to get you through there.

1) Take detailed notes on the topics you cover in the order you cover them.  Every BOLC is broken down into phases where you will learn different pieces of your branch.  By taking detailed notes throughout the course you will set yourself up for success and give you references to look back on.

2) Network. Network. Network.  The other LTs you will have the opportunity to work with will supply you with knowledge at the course and throughout your career.  Make good friends and contacts there because you will see them again!

GKB class of 20143) Ensure your uniforms are correct and to standard.  As an Officer you set the standard for the uniform and it helps show your TAC that you are a professional and ready to lead your platoon.

4) Ask questions!  This is the best time to ask questions from the experts in your field.  If you have any question, you need to ask it.  You go to your unit after this!

5) Have thick skin.  When you get to BOLC, you need to be able to take constructive criticism well and learn from your mistakes.  The delivery may be a bit harsh, so be ready.

LT NeldenAs always, reach out to alumni and classmates from your schools that have gone through BOLC.  They will be able to answer some of you questions and be able to supply you with products and other course materials you may need.

Why didn’t my status change?

I’ve been getting a lot of comment posts, emails, and discussion board inquires about the board process and changes in scholarship application statuses (or lack thereof).   Here are some of the questions and the answers:

The board met today and my status hasn’t changed yet???

The board date is just the start date.  Each board takes about a week to review and score thousands of files. Think about the numbers…each year there are about 10K applicants that complete their file and are boarded.  That means each board is going to be looking at somewhere between 2 and 4 thousand files.  To the best of my knowledge a board is made up of 4-5 Lieutenant Colonels that go to Fort Knox and sit on the board.  They are locked in a room and review files all day.

The answer is…be patient.

My status changed to “boarded”, is an offer imminent???

The board has nothing to do with the offers.  The offer process is separate from the board process.  Once the board is released from that locked room the next step is to take all those file scores, add them to the scores from the previous boards that didn’t get offers and then start working down the list to make offers.  So, essentially someone takes the file with the highest score and looks at the list of schools.  If the first school on the list has allocations left then an offer is made.  If not then we look at the second school on the list and they work down the list of schools.  Some of those offers may be 4 year and some may be three year offers.

The answer is…No…be patient.

Will my status change once the process is over with if I don’t get an offer???

This one is a tough one, because I don’t have visibility of applicant end results.  To the best of my knowledge statuses probably won’t change.  I have seen applicants who didn’t get an offer receive an email in the past encouraging them to enroll in Army ROTC if they still want to become an Army Officer.  I usually send out a similar email to my applicants that don’t get offers, especially the ones I know are still coming to my school.  The bottom line is the scholarship processors at Cadet Command are probably shifting fire to the next project (prepping winners for the following fall, starting to look at next year’s early applicants, dealing with DODMERB issues) and they don’t have time to close the loop with the applicants that didn’t get an offer.

The answer is…probably not.

Here’s the last piece of advice.  Keep in mind that the scholarship processors are a small group of people who do a Herculean task each year.  They just don’t have time to give individual, full service to each and every applicant.  Don’t get frustrated if you status doesn’t change frequently or if your email goes unanswered for a day or two.  I’m a small school ROO who pays close attention to the 100 +/- applicants who list my school each year.  It’s a lot easier for me to answer questions and check statuses then for the folks at CC.  Hopefully the ROO at your school of choice is helpful.

 

 

And the Oscar goes to…

This one is hot off the press…Cadet Command just posted an incredibly useful video on Youtube that explains how to apply for an Army ROTC scholarship.  Captain Howard does a great job of explaining how to navigate the website and touches on all the important features, especially that additional information tab.

I wish I had produced this video.  It is just about how I would have conveyed this information.  Kudos to Cadet Command!

It’s been too long. An update from my foxhole

As another school year starts and another Army ROTC scholarship process gets into full swing I just wanted to share a few random thoughts about the view from my foxhole.

My Foxhole

For those of you unfamiliar with the Golden Knight Battalion it is a Battalion made up of 4 schools, all within a 20 minute drive.  We don’t have the partner/crosstown challenges other Battalions have.  We are also 4 relatively small schools.  Two are public (SUNY ) and two are private.  The host is a very supportive University.  Clarkson is known for it’s engineer programs and we are predominantly STEM.  We have excellent training opportunities on campus, in the local area, and at Fort Drum which is 1 hours away.

The scholarship process

The online scholarship process has gotten better over the recent years.  This blog was partly a product of the difficulty of navigating the process in the past.  Currently the site is very user friendly, easy to navigate, and very informative.  I make sure I apply every year, so that I know exactly what applicants are seeing.  in the past I had to ask my applicant what it looked like so that I could give advice.

application

This is what my application looks like this year.  I have circled the tab for additional information.  That tab will put me out of business if more people start clicking on it, since it contains the information that answers most of the questions I get routinely asked.  Hope no one clicks on it.

Changes in the Cadet Command world

The Army is getting smaller.  Budgets will continue to get tighter.  The way Cadet Command trains future Officers will be significantly different very soon.  All of those are things we can’t control.  That being said, I have more scholarship winners than I have had in quite a few years.  I continue to get my qualified Cadets on campus scholarship offers if they earn them.

The first scholarship board is meeting, the deadlines are approaching, and the world continues to turn.  Hope to find the time to blog more often and continue to help qualified applicants get those scholarships, contracts, and opportunities to serve their country as an Army Officer.

 

CULP trip 2014 – Thailand – Cadet Forshey

For CULP 2014, I was deployed to the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Thailand from 24 May to 17 June.  My team of 13 cadets, along with our team leader, taught groups of Thai cadets from first years to four years.  All of the cadets had taken English for several years and needed a certain understanding of the language to get into the academy, but their conversational English skills were lacking because they rarely conversed in English outside of English class.   After classes we were able to play sports with the cadets and we ate meals with them.  We also had the opportunity to teach enlisted soldiers, who had the opportunity to become officers, some drill and ceremony, the way we do.

The enlisted soldiers and our team after a session of D and C.

The enlisted soldiers and our team after a session of D and C.

It was awesome to learn the differences in things such as facing movements and especially how they march at formal occasions.

One of the most exciting things I got to experience was doing their PT test with them.  Their run is a five kilometer run around their academy grounds which finishes in front of the statue of King Chulachomklao.  They run their test as units, and if someone in their unit does not finish in 27:00 minutes, the entire unit fails.  Oh, and did I mention they test is at 1500 (roughly 95ºF with no wind) while they are wearing their ‘ACU’ pants and combat boots? It was amazing to be a part of this experience. They all work together to push and encourage each other to complete this run.

We ate every meal, breakfast lunch and dinner, with our cadets from second battalion, under second company's barracks.

We ate every meal, breakfast lunch and dinner, with our cadets from second battalion, under second company’s barracks.

On weekends, we went on excursions with our Thai cadets.  The first weekend we went to Kanchanaburi, in the west of Thailand.  We went to an elephant park, Erawan waterfalls national park, the bridge over the River Kwai and the Tiger Temple.  The elephant park and the Tiger temple were awesome, because I had never been so close, or even touched animals so big.

Forshey 3

Erawan National park, we hiked to the seventh and final tier of the falls and explored.

The next weekend we went to Ayutthaya, which is the old capital of Thailand.  We went to the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace.  This palace is a ‘vacation’ palace of the King and Queen.  It was amazing to see how many images of the King and Queen were all over the cities and villages.  The peoples’ respect for their King and Queen was remarkable.  The following day we went to a market in an old temple square and finished the day by going to the ‘Monkey Temple’.   The monkey temple was a huge abandoned temple because the monkeys had essentially taken over.  The entire city had monkeys crawling all over it.

At the Monkey Temple with Thailand team 3 and our fellow Thai counterparts.

At the Monkey Temple with Thailand team 3 and our fellow Thai counterparts.

During this trip I learned how different other cultures were because I had never been outside of the United States and my perception of other cultures was close-minded.  I went into the experience with an open mind and I learned a lot about Thailand, not only the way the military operates, but also how different traditions are celebrated among the civilians as well.

CULP trip 2014 – Hungary – Cadet Yates

Cadet Adam Yates spent three weeks of his Summer in Hunary.  Since my Grandparents on my Dad’s side were from Hungary, I was really looking forward to seeing what Cadet Yates had to report from his trip.  Sounds like he had a good visit.

“You’re going to a place that describes what you always are… Hungary” said SFC Truman. That initiated my excitement for going out of the US for the first time. A team of 10 cadets and myself traveled to Hungary to complete our mission of building foreign relationships with the Hungarian Defense Forces (HDF) by teaching them the English language. Just as the HDF General Bozo expressed to us at a welcoming lunch; English is a powerful tool for the Hungarian military since they are a part of NATO and the official NATO language is English. Within the first few days of our trip we toured the entire capital city of Budapest and saw all its beautiful architecture and scenery.

Hungarian Parliament building

Hungarian Parliament building

We were lucky enough to tour the Hungarian parliament building. The King’s crown is housed in the top of the building and guarded by two sword yielding HDF personnel.

The Hungarian Equestrian show

The Hungarian Equestrian show

We attended a Hungarian Equestrian show where the horses are trained like your domestic dog. Horse riding is a proud Hungarian tradition since they used horses during battle. The country has many statues depicting soldiers on horseback.

Hungarian EOD

Hungarian EOD

We spent a few days with the Hungarian EOD unit to find out that they are quite busy. They receive an average of 6 calls per day from civilians who have found some kind of EOD at their homes or in the country side. Mines, mortars, and grenades are ubiquitous in Hungary from being placed during WWII.

anti-aircraft weapon on one of the Hungarian warships

anti-aircraft weapon on one of the Hungarian warships

 

We also spent some time with the waterborne Hungarian forces.  We checked out an anti-aircraft weapon on one of the Hungarian warships which is also a mine sweeper. This weapons system has four 20 mm machine guns which all have 60 round drums. All 240 rounds fire off in an amazing 5 seconds. After checking out the ship we took a cruise on it down the Danube River.

Hungarian Orphanage

Hungarian Orphanage

One of our last days in country we visited an orphanage where children with chronic disabilities lived. We finger painted and played soccer with the children. We also helped out the establishment by moving hay bales. Just to put a smile on these guys and girls face was enough to make their day and my own.

Going into a different culture taught me to respect what others value in life. It was amazing to realize how much we take for granted in America and how the little things in life mean the most to others. I learned to appreciate and thank God for what I have at home. CULP was an eye opening experience that I’ll never forget.

A good report from Cadet Yates.

CULP trip 2014 – Romania – Cadet Mooney

It’s that time of the Summer when I start to get the trip reports from the CULP missions.  First to submit her report was Cadet Sally Mooney.  She will be entering her Junior year in the GKB and is studying at SUNY Potsdam and playing hockey there.  Here is her report from Romania.

I was a part of TM 10 Romania for CULP 2014. We had twelve cadets staying in Bucharest, Romania where we worked with the Jandarmeria. This is the special military police force that specializes in riot control and anti-terrorism. Our mission was to help them better understand english, in exchange for Jandarm training.

Mooney 1

During the week, we spent the day at their base. In the mornings we would do training, and in the afternoon we gave presentations on American culture and language. Some training events include: riot formations, breaching a building, combatives, rappelling, and rock climbing. One day, we went to the range and shot the MP5 and Sig Sauer P226. That was the team’s favorite day because none of us had shot these weapons before.

The Jandarms showing me a formation

The Jandarms showing me a formation

Many of the Jandarms were experts in MMA, and one was even the national champion for boxing. They taught us a lot of combatives and it was very beneficial and fulfilling for us. We also visited an orphanage while we were there. We went to the grocery store and bought a ton of food and toys to donate to the children of the orphanage. When we got there, the children were very excited and did not hesitate to dive into the toys we got them.

On the weekends, we traveled to do some sightseeing, and expand our cultural perspectives. The first weekend we went to Brasov where we saw Castle Peles, Castle Bran (Dracula’s Castle), a fortress, and a medieval city.

 

Tm 10 cadets outside of Castle Bran (Dracula’s Castle)

Tm 10 cadets outside of Castle Bran (Dracula’s Castle)

One of the Jandarms lived near there and we had the chance to see where he grew up. This was the most culturally shocking moment for me, because the Jandarm’s home was a very simple houses made of mud and set in a village. It was a self sufficient home. It was something that you see pictures of, but never actually witness. It was important for the team to get the chance to see that not every house is modernized and it was amazing to see. The next weekend we went to Mamaia on the Black Sea. We spent our time playing volleyball and relaxing on the beach. The weekends were a lot of fun because they offered a chance to fully see the country, as well as help us build relationships with our Romanian counterparts.

My Romanian counterpart (Cioby) and me wearing the riot control equipment

My Romanian counterpart (Cioby) and me wearing the riot control equipment

During my time there, I made friends with Romanians and fellow cadets. It was an experience of a lifetime, and I am very happy that I was able to go on this trip. I learned a lot about their culture and saw firsthand how much it is different from the lifestyle I have been fortunate to have.

As usual, the trip was life changing and opened the Cadet’s eyes to how other cultures live.  Thanks for bringing back a good story and lots of pictures Cadet Mooney.

 

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