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Corps marks increases in GPA, fitness scores

University of North Georgia cadets hone their military skills during a field training exercise (FTX) held earlier this spring.

A focus on fundamentals is propelling the University of North Georgia's traditionally strong Corps of Cadets to become even better, and has resulted in dramatic increases in the academic success and physical fitness of these future military officers. The overall GPA for UNG's Corps of Cadets is the highest it has been in 13 years and average physical fitness scores have jumped some 30 points.

Cadets in class
Cadets listen to a lecture in a military science class at the University
of North Georgia.

As his first year draws to a close, COL Todd Wilson, UNG's active-duty professor of military science, is seeing results from concentrating on fundamentals—an emphasis that mirrors changes in U.S. Army training.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the hard work from our men and women in the corps. Every day, I am impressed with our cadets' initiative and desire to excel," Wilson said. "The University of North Georgia has an exceptionally strong reputation for commissioning only the highest caliber of officers and a proud history of producing exceptional leaders. I am convinced we are on the right track to sustain this university's tradition of military excellence."

Wilson assumed command of UNG's Department of Military Science in June 2012.

For Fall 2012, the overall GPA for the 700-member corps rose to 2.89, with juniors leading the way with an overall 3.03 GPA. Grades are pending for spring semester, but Wilson expects to see additional improvement. The average score on the Army Physical Fitness Test has risen to 270 for contracted cadets and 277 for "pre-camp" cadets headed to this summer's Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC); that's up from last year's average of 244 corps-wide.

Why push competent cadets to be better? To develop top-notch leaders.

"Organizations succeed when they have highly skilled individuals in their ranks who foster trust and teamwork. These three factors — trust, teamwork and competency — are interdependent and having educated leaders and personnel is a precondition to success for any organization, military or civilian," Wilson said. "Cadets are here to understand soldiers, but they're also here to learn how to lead them. A college degree builds upon military training, further honing intelligence, leadership and critical thinking."

One key to the improvements has been getting cadets to establish measurable individual goals. Capt. Jonathan C. Edwards, a military science III and pre-camp instructor at UNG, said goal-setting is an important skill for future military officers.

"Goal-setting enables cadets to identify their individual objectives, but it also enables them to prioritize their time and efforts," Edwards said. "Like officers, cadets routinely manage multiple requirements from their academic curriculum and other activities. Goal-setting guides them so that they better prioritize, avoid losing focus, and use their time working toward achieving results."  

Other initiatives in assessment, training and counseling are aimed to help cadets achieve their fitness and academic goals. While the corps is making progress on these goals, a third goal, boosting corps-wide success at LDAC, will be tested in a few weeks.

Each summer from June to August, thousands of Army ROTC cadets from more than 1,100 colleges and universities attend LDAC, also called Operation Warrior Forge, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Cadets are tested on physical stamina, endurance, ability to navigate over difficult terrain, and team-building and leadership skills.

In preparation, the Department of Military Science has taken measures to enhance progression and efficiency in training and has created leadership "laboratories" that build on what cadets are studying in class. The department also has prioritized training on skills tested at LDAC and focusing on those skills earlier than cadets' junior year.

Cadets' "comprehensive fitness," both mental and physical, is the single-most important factor to establishing a cadet's placement on the National Order of Merit List (OML). Leader attributes and competencies also strongly contribute to placement on the OML. Cadets are developed and assessed in these areas at both LDAC and their performance and participation in the Corps of Cadets.

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