More than 100 men and women are aspiring to become officers in the National Guard
Phase one of officer candidate school for the 130 candidates from 12 states continued on Wednesday at the Stones Ranch Military Reservation in East Lyme.
"To see somebody really raise their right hand and volunteer and have a lot of motivation and really want to be here, that drives me and that gives me a lot of hope for our future," said Capt. Ema Moreau, U.S. Army.
Many of the candidates already serve in the military or have prior experience. Now, they're pushing themselves to the next level.
"After spending a couple years outside of the military after serving my initial term of service, I decided that I wasn't done with my time and that I would like to come back in and be one of those leaders," said Zachary Flashman, officer candidate.
Wednesday marked day four of an intense two-week program that officials said tests leadership skills and basic soldier skills such as land navigation.
"It's very competitive," said Jaime Cabezas, an officer candidate. "A lot of the people are very physically fit [and] very mentally sharp too."
"[It's] one of the hardest things that I've ever attempted before," Flashman said. "It's very physically and mentally demanding."
Candidates are given several points. They have to plot them, find them and make it back in three hours.
"They have to maneuver through swamps and things of that nature to find their points, and it's very critical in the military environment that soldiers have that confidence to maneuver in a combat environment," Major Zachariah Fike, U.S. Army said.
The program is offered every year. The second phase begins in August and will run through next June. The entire program runs 14 months.
Officers said not everyone makes the cut.
For those who do, it's a course they've been plotting for quite some time.
"Be kind. Be persistent and don't ever stop," Moreau said. "Get what you want."
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