U.S. Military Academy 2022 Cadet Learns To Lead, Serve
by Jorge Garcia, United States Military Academy at West Point
June 20, 2021
The first two and a half weeks of Cadet Summer Training triggered feelings of happiness and exhilaration for Class of 2022 Cadet Holland Pratt as she reflected on her past experiences when she underwent the trials of Cadet Basic Training (Beast) and Cadet Field Training. Now, as the regimental commander for this summer’s CFT, Pratt is ready to make a difference, inspire passion for the profession, and refine her leadership style.
May 28, 2021 - Cadets from 3rd Company at the U.S. Military Academy perform live-fire and tactical movement training as a part of Cadet Field Training. Class of 2022 Cadet Holland Pratt (not pictured) leads these and other cadets during the Cadet Field Training as the regimental commander this summer. Pratt is ready to make a difference, inspire passion for the profession, and refine her leadership style. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gregory Muenchow)
“As the regimental commander, I learned more about leadership in these two and a half weeks than in any other leadership position I’ve held in the past,” Pratt said. “This summer’s motto is ‘Eager to Serve, Willing to Lead,’ which stems from the idea that your service comes first and this leadership position allows me to provide the service the cadets need to be successful.”
Pratt remembered her training experiences and how the land navigation course proved to be her most challenging task during Beast and CFT. Constant downpours made it difficult to navigate the terrain, and it had rained for two and a half days during the 72 hours she spent on the course during CFT.
Keeping a positive attitude during that experience was difficult for Pratt. Still, with support from her peers and her own tenacity, she overcame the obstacle and is currently instructing the CFT cadets to overcome their personal challenges.
“I said to myself, after enduring the training, ‘I just did that,’ and I realized I overcame that challenge and that I am capable, I can do this, so for me, this past weekend being able to experience that again with these trainees and provide some perspective on how those difficult moments during my training helped me is an awesome experience,” Pratt said. “From my perspective, I learned if you show respect and find something you can relate to with the people you are leading and interacting with, they will soon start to understand the importance of what they do during training and it will help them become proficient leaders in the Army.”
Last year’s CFT regimental commander, USMA Class of 2021, now 2nd Lt. Tyler Shekleton provided Pratt with insight into effectively leading trainees. He would often sit down with her and discuss after-action review points, informing her on what worked for him and what he needs to improve on, Pratt said.
“I would say the most significant attribute I pulled from Tyler is his presence when dealing with trainees. He showed me the importance of coming down to the trainee’s level and showing that you understand them, you want to interact with them and that you are always there for them,” Pratt said. “Tyler really had that presence last summer, and that’s something I definitely want to have this summer, too.”
Understanding the CFT cadets’ perspective and studying how they conceptualize information has been one of the most challenging aspects of leading during these two and a half weeks for Pratt. Teaching the trainees new skills and why they are necessary has been a significant challenge. Most of them never stayed out in the field, performed land navigation, or fired a weapon. Moreover, assimilating to a military training environment can often challenge a trainee’s mental and physical capabilities.
“Cadets often get cynical out here, but if you can provide a fresh perspective for them, that definitely helps people improve their moods,” Pratt said. “For me, this past week has been challenging helping people understand the reasons why we train under rainy or cold weather conditions. We all got together and sat down one night and had a meeting. I talked with the trainees about my experiences at West Point and senior officers talked about working in a combat environment and I feel that discussion boosted everyone’s morale.”
Pratt added these pivotal moments with the CFT cadets help orient her leadership skills. Focusing more on helping others reach their untapped potential is an endeavor she’s always willing to see through to the end. Watching the trainees, or underclass cadets, learn and grow each day fills her with a sense of joy and fulfillment because their success is contingent upon her success and if she can successfully aid them, the team as a whole will succeed.
“West Point has provided me with so much and has developed me as a leader and critical thinker, and if I can help people overcome some of the unique challenges that West Point presents I’ll be more than happy because it means I got to serve and I joined the Army specifically to serve the people,” Pratt said. “If you can focus less on yourself and more on the people around you, it motivates you to do more as a leader. It motivates you to come up with unique ways to assist in a cadet’s growth as a leader and even if I helped only one person overcome some hardship here, then I’ve performed my duties adequately.”
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