Wednesday marked the start of a grueling training program for National Guard officer candidates.
More than 130 of them from a dozen states volunteered for the 14 month program at the Regional Training Institute in Niantic.
Eyewitness News received a first-hand look at it.
The candidates lined up in formation around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday in preparation for some intense physical training.
"The first thing they're going to do [Wednesday] morning is doing what we call 'PT,' or physical training," said Major Alyssa Kelleher. "They'll be breaking off into platoon-sized elements, so about 30 to 35 soldiers."
The candidates raced around the training course at break-neck speed.
"This is taking people who just entered the Guard or people who are priority-enlisted members of the Guard and giving them the test and the tools to take them to become officers, commissioned officers," Kelleher said.
She said each morning's PT session is about an hour.
After that, they'll change into their regular uniforms for "lines of knowledge."
"Lines of Knowledge is a mental and physical test over by the pull-up bars where they get quizzed on things they've been studying about the program," Kelleher said.
Stretching as far as she could, Fatima Aguilar of New Jersey said she used every bit of her 4'9" frame to reach the bar. She didn't quite get to 10 repetitions, but finished strong with a different exercise.
"The pull ups with some extra weight, I did not practice doing that," she admitted.
The former enlisted soldier and mother of two said she was compelled to keep serving her country.
Capt. Mike Peterson said the toughest part for him when he went through the program was the mental and physical challenges.
"They designed this physical training plan and they're essentially getting ready to keep up their physical fitness," Peterson said. "It's not so much at test as it is both a leadership skill and to keep themselves physically fit."
Instructors said the challenges are also a test of leadership abilities.
Peterson the candidates are a wide spectrum of folks who are already in the National Guard.
"[They're] candidates that come from all walks of life," he said. "Some have military experience previously, some don't. It's really interesting to see the challenges that they face and how they overcome them both mentally and physically."
Dru Sin of New Milford served eight years in the Army. Despite that, he said Guard training has been brutal for him.
"The pressure that’s constantly put on us, the time constraints being able to always think on your feet," he said.
If all goes well, they'll become officers in about a year and a half.
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