Long before sunrise, about 100 of the Citadel's top cadets put on their physical training uniforms and reflective belts, laced up their sneakers and marched briskly toward the stadium lights on Wilson Field.
They cut short their summer vacations to begin a week-long leadership training. This is the group of upperclassmen who will help push freshmen, known as "knobs" for their extremely short haircuts that leave them nearly bald, through grueling military training. Members also will lead the Corps of Cadets throughout the year.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Weart, director of the school's Krause Leadership Initiative, says cadets must lead by example.
They show up first. They don't ask anyone to do things they can't do themselves.
And they have to be in shape, which means they must pass a physical test.
So at 5:30 a.m., cadet leaders, whose counterparts from other colleges were sleeping in before hitting the beach, took the test: two minutes of push ups, two minutes of sit ups and a two-mile run.
For men 17 to 21 years old, the minimum requirements to pass the test are: 42 push-ups, 53 sit-ups and a run of 15 minutes and 54 seconds or less.
Minimum requirements for women 17 to 21 years old are: 19 push-ups, 53 sit-ups and a run of 18 minutes and 54 seconds or less.
Zachary Holliday, 20, clearly the fastest runner in the group, finished the run in 10 minutes and 49 seconds.
When asked how he felt after his steamy August dash, Holliday simply replied, "tired."
Weart says students who didn't meet the physical requirements Monday will get another chance. But before cadets can serve in a leadership positions, they must meet basic physical and academic requirements.
And they have to have "a passionate desire" to do it, Weart says. Attending The Citadel is already a challenge, he says. And as a leader, "you're carrying an extra rucksack."
Cadet Christopher Castagno, 20, who's a sophomore and one of the younger students in the training, says that as a freshman last year, "I saw what I didn't want to become."
The first year at The Citadel is supposed to be extremely challenging, Castagno says.
New students must obey upperclassmen's orders. The idea is to make them good followers before training them to be leaders.
But Castagno says some older cadets inflicted "unnecessarily harsh and overbearing leadership."
He wants to be a leader that people respect instead of fear.
But he learned something from those less-than-perfect leaders, he said. He will be "more sensitive" to the people he leads, he says. And he is much more open to new ways of doing things. "Too many leaders are confined to one path," he says.
Col. Greg Stone, the commandant of cadets, who says an Associated Press embedded reporter once called him "the meanest man in Bosnia," made clear to leaders his four major expectations for the year.
He wants to see improvement in gender relations. The Citadel has improved in that area, he says, "but we could be better."
And he doesn't want to see hazing. He instead wants cadets to respect each other.
He especially expects cadet leaders to follow standards and see that other cadets do so as well. "That's the Corps running the Corps," he said.
Finally, he stressed that he expects maturity from cadets.
He used as an example of immaturity the school's informal Halloween tradition.
"We do (expletive) on Halloween," he says. "People can get hurt."
A group of cadets explained that the holiday is a traditionally a wild time in the barracks. The knobs take all the candy and barricade themselves in a room. Things get thrown, sometimes even furniture. Cadets puncture shaving cream cans and they explode.
Usually someone bleeds, they said.
Brittnay Nagel, 21, the regimental executive officer, is the Corps of Cadets second-in-command this year.
She recognizes that the leadership training is "something very few colleges will give you."
One of her overall goals is a Corps of Cadets that "can function effectively and efficiently," she says. "I want a big group of people that wants to work together."
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