One of the best parts of being a cadet is that there are opportunities available that are not as common in the Regular Army. One such benefit is the option to attend summer training (and sometimes winter training, depending on the slots available and your school’s winter break schedule). Limited slots are given to ROTC programs to send cadets to various Army schools. Often an Order of Merit List based on Army Physical Fitness Test scores, leadership abilities, and college Grade Point Average is referenced to determine which cadets get first dibs on the training slots. In my book there are multiple tips on how to dominate the physical training test, excel at leadership positions, and perform well at school.
The schools vary greatly. There are the badge schools, where, upon competition of the training, you earn a military badge that can be worn on your uniform for the rest of your time in service. These schools include Airborne, Pathfinder, and Air Assault schools, among others. There are also training centers and opportunities that do not award badges, but are no less fulfilling and beneficial. This includes Mountain Warfare, Robin Sage, and the Cultural Understanding and Language Program (the name may have changed since it first began).
Which school you choose to complete is completely up to you, the slots available, and whether or not you have earned a slot. Most of my friends chose the badge schools so they could proudly adorn their uniform and show others that they were able to complete the training. Of those schools, the most popular were Air Assault (rappelling from a helicopter) and Airborne (parachuting from an airplane). I was initially offered an Air Assault slot my sophomore year, but eventually turned it down to apply to CULP. Fortunately I was selected and I spent three weeks in Slovakia the following summer. The trip included mountain biking, touring castles, a river boat cruise, going to a water park, hiking up a mountain, and spending a week with Slovak cadets at their military academy. For me the choice between the badge or travelling was simple: How often do you get a all-inclusive trip to another nation for free?
After my junior year I was offered an Airborne slot, but chose to give it to another cadet so I could take part in Cadet Troop Leadership Training in Germany for four weeks. Again, it came down to me wanting to travel as much as possible for free. I feel that was the correct decision for me. I volunteered for other schools before becoming an officer, and after completing the Basic Officer Leadership Course I was sent to Airborne school, which goes to show that there is still a chance you can earn military badges after ROTC, if you choose to take that risk and wait.
Clearly there are many training opportunities within ROTC and every cadet will have unique preferences. The trick is to ensure you are performing well as a cadet. As long as you continue to put in the effort you, too, can spend a portion of your summer learning a new skill or culture and have a great time doing it.