|National Guard soldiers take part in Officer Candidate School|
|Friday, 06 July 2012 15:40|
Black Hills FOX Reporter Zach Nugent has more. Deep within the Black Hills of South Dakota National Guard soldiers march. It's a 10 mile jaunt down the Mickelsen Trail soldiers given a 30 pound sack and three and a half hours. All of it is part of what's called the Officer Candidate School. OCS Phase II Bravo Commander Kirk Mickelsen says, "What we do is we produce officers for the National Guard. We also produce, and one of the things I really believe in is, we produce leaders not only for the National Guard, but also in the community, because most of the officer candidates that are here today are either college students or they're business leaders in their community or they're teachers and doctors and lawyers." But all are also soldiers looking to climb within the ranks of the National Guard. The training isn't exclusively for South Dakota soldiers in fact of the nearly 100 candidates only two are from the Mount Rushmore State. Candidate Becky Linder says, "I'm glad I have the opportunity to be out here in my home state and represent South Dakota and to become a future leader in the Guard. I get a little homesick because I know I'm here in South Dakota and I know my family's only like 20 minutes from where I'm training, but I'm really enjoying it. I'm meeting a lot of new people." The soldiers come from different states but also bring with them different sets of skills some are combat veterans, while others are fresh out of basic. So part of the challenge is simply collaborating and getting everyone in step with one another. Candidate Thomas Fakler says, "It's something to be proud of, because we have 24 states here, soldiers from 24 states and the territory of Guam. The fact that we can come together as a team like that and work together to accomplish this is something to be proud of and that's what the guard is all about, working as a team." The training is no cake walk. For 58 days these soldiers go through extreme classroom and hands-on learning scenarios looking to make these Guard soldiers the best of the best. Linder says, "Bringing it all together and working as a team, we've really grown, built relationships and we're all getting close to being leaders." Enrolled soldiers will continue with the Officer Candidate School through July with a special graduation ceremony July 27th at Mount Rushmore. At that time, students will be officially commissioned as officers in the Army National Guard.