Cadets tackle in-person training during pandemic

Army ROTC adjusts commissioning requirements for seniors, including Operation Agile Leader



WSU Army ROTC cadets attend in-person physical fitness training three times a week and in-person leadership labs once a week.

MADYSEN MCLAIN, Evergreen roots editor

For WSU Army ROTC cadets, the COVID-19 pandemic could not stop their training.

The program received permission from the WSU Office of the Provost to conduct in-person physical fitness training, also known as PT, three times a week during fall and spring semester. Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Sheftic said cadets attend in-person leadership labs once a week.

Sheftic said he teaches military science classes on Zoom when the cadets are not in person.

To participate on campus, students were required to take a COVID-19 test and quarantine for 14 days while self-monitoring for symptoms, Sheftic said.

Dominic Crownhart, senior criminal justice and criminology major, joined Air Force ROTC his freshman year before realizing his career goals aligned more with Army ROTC after two semesters.

For Crownhart, the pandemic meant missing out on participating in an advanced camp that is hosted at Fort Knox in Kentucky. He said the camp gathers more than 15,000 cadets each year for physical and leadership training, he said.

“It’s this culminating event that everyone looks forward to as a way to test yourself and see what you actually learned over the course of the classes,” Crownhart said.

For safety reasons, individual universities became responsible to complete cadets’ training. Sheftic led exercises, called Operation Agile Leader, for the 19 junior class members at Camp Seven Mile north of Spokane last fall.

Last fall, WSU Army ROTC cadets participated in Operation Agile Leader at Camp Seven Mile north of Spokane where they completed land navigation training. (COURTESY OF MICHELLE KELLY)

While at camp, cadets completed a 12-mile march and land navigation training where they learned how to move from one point to another in the woods, he said. 

Crownhart said the senior class must perform all commissioning requirements to raise their right hand and swear an oath to the United States Army. They also had to complete two physical fitness tests and basic medical combat care.

Sheftic said some cadets, primarily freshmen and sophomores, could not be in Pullman due to finances or other challenges. He allowed them to complete tasks through Zoom.

“Once we do come back fully as a university, we will have to catch them up on some of the in-person things they missed,” Sheftic said.

Events that welcomed students into the program as a freshman were canceled. In the fall, incoming freshmen could not participate in the Week of Welcome or march in the Lentil Festival parade, said Katie Vescio, sophomore criminal justice and criminology major.

However, in September, about 100 cadets traveled to Camp Seven Mile for a four-day field training, Vescio said.

Sheftic said no one contracted COVID-19 and they quarantined for 14 days after they returned. The next field training will be in April at the same location.

“I’m very glad that I was able to have an in-person part of my senior year,” Crownhart said. “I think that everyone’s kind of feeling that right now, and that they’re lacking that community feeling that is WSU.”