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Operation Agile Leader prepares senior cadets to commission

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Operation Agile Leader included a field training exercise for UNG senior cadets at UNG's Pine Valley Recreation Complex.

Cadets from the University of North Georgia (UNG) generally spend the summer between their junior and senior years experiencing the grueling Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The COVID-19 pandemic transformed that training to a semesterlong effort known as Operation Agile Leader for seniors this fall on campus.

Operation Agile Leader was the Army-mandated replacement in 2020-21 for Advanced Camp, which cadets must complete to be commissioned in the military. Cadets are tested on areas that include rifle marksmanship, hand grenades, first aid, Army combat fitness, and land navigation.

"It's a way to ensure our graduating cadets who are commissioning are prepared to go on to their Basic Officer Leader Course," said Col. Joshua D. Wright, UNG's professor of military science.

Following a rifle marksmanship weekend earlier in the semester at Fort Benning, Georgia, UNG's senior cadets completed their major Operation Agile Leader efforts with a field training exercise Nov. 13-15 at UNG's Pine Valley Recreation Complex.

Operation Agile Leader allows the U.S. Army Cadet Command to assess the cadets' proficiency as future officers. This evaluation helps determine the cadets' rank in the Order of Merit List, which is used to determine which cadets are Distinguished Military Students and Distinguished Military Graduates.

"It still offered them the chance to test their individual skills, as well as their leadership competencies," said Maj. Joshua Larson, assistant professor of military science at UNG. "There's so much going on right now. For us, it was trying to have a little bit of normalcy. Obviously, we had to do some things differently when we trained."

Cadet Maj. Alison Gaynor, a senior from Hiram, Georgia, pursuing a degree in marketing, was grateful for her preparation.

"UNG's Leadership Development Program prepared me well for Operation Agile Leader," Gaynor said. "It feels like a regular school year with extra training. We're proud of what we did junior year to get ready for this."

Cadet Spc. Emma Rosa, a senior from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, pursuing a degree in psychology, was glad to experience Operation Agile Leader on campus.

"We knew that at the end of the day we were working toward earning our commissioning spot. They definitely hold us to a higher standard at UNG," Rosa said. "We knew we were going to get the full experience and then some."

The COVID-19 pandemic rearranged the schedule but not the training's mission.

"I'm sad I didn't get the experience of Advanced Camp. My friends talk about the friends they made and how they grew," Gaynor said. "But I know I still received the same training."

Cadet Capt. Carson Doyle, commander of Golf Company in UNG's Corps of Cadets, said the cadre and cadet leadership did a great job of balancing normal corps activities with Operation Agile Leader.

"The professor of military science and his staff were organized and did everything they could to help us get certified to commission on time," said Doyle, a senior from Roanoke, Virginia, pursuing a degree in strategic and security studies.

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