Culture of excellence permeates Cyclone ROTC Battalion at Iowa State

LDAC cadets

Cyclone Battalion senior cadets with trophies earned at the Leadership Development Assessment Course.

AMES, Iowa -- The notion that 'success breeds success' has found a home on the second floor of the Armory at Iowa State University -- the nerve center of the Cyclone Army ROTC Battalion.

The 140 cadets in the battalion have collected nearly every award and honor available -- from ranking the best in the Midwest (out of 40 battalions) to having the nation's highest average score on the Army physical fitness test to earning more national scholarships than any battalion (out of the 273) in the country.

The upshot of all this success is a top honor that places the battalion among the nation's elite. In February, Cadet Command, Fort Knox, Ky., awarded Cyclone Battalion one of eight MacArthur Awards for the school year 2011-12. Cyclone Battalion represents Cadet Command's 3rd Brigade of 40 Army ROTC programs in the Midwest. The award is based on a combination of the achievement of the school's commissioning mission, its cadets' performance and standing on the Command's national order of merit list, and its cadet retention rate.

MacArthur banners

It's a culture of excellence that permeates the ranks of the cadets, says LTC Richard Smith, professor and chair of the Military Science and Tactics Department.

"These students are committed to excellence and they want to do their best," Smith said.

Cyclone Battalion includes student cadets from three universities: Iowa State, Drake and Buena Vista.

Each summer, all cadets who have completed their junior year attend the challenging summer ROTC Leadership Development Assessment Course (known as "LDAC") at Fort Lewis, Wash. Considered the most important training event for an Army ROTC cadet or National Guard officer candidate, the four-week summer capstone course incorporates rigorous training on a range of subjects designed to develop and evaluate leadership ability. Cadets are evaluated on physical fitness, leadership skills, communication, weapons training, land navigation skills and other subjects. Their LDAC scores figure greatly into various awards the battalion is considered for throughout the fall.

"When the seniors return from LDAC, they don't turn it off. They stay motivated and lead the program. They want the juniors to be as good as they were. And the juniors want to do even better than the seniors," Smith said. "Our success is really because of the cadets."

The recent high achievements and honors earned by the Cyclone Battalion include the following.


In a nationwide competition open to all Army ROTC seniors, Cyclone Battalion cadets won 11 of 40 scholarships, more than any other battalion. Approximately 6,000 cadets in 273 battalions in the United States were eligible to apply. The scholarships were awarded on academic and ROTC performance, campus activities, a written essay and successful completion of LDAC.

Leadership Development Assessment Course

During LDAC last August, one Cyclone Battalion cadet was ranked first in his regiment, two ranked second in their regiments and seven earned top honors in their respective platoons. There are 400 cadets in a regiment and 40 in a platoon.

After the exceptional performance of their cadets at LDAC, Cyclone Battalion was named best in the Midwest, and received the following additional honors from the 3rd Brigade.

  • The No. 1 Commissioning Excellence Award for the brigade's highest average cadet ranking on the order of merit list. The order of merit list is the annual national ranking of all commissioning cadets in the country.
  • No. 1 Recondo Award for the highest percentage of cadets (48 percent) achieving Recondo at LDAC. The national average is 15.6 percent. To earn Recondo, a cadet must score above 290 on the Army physical fitness test, pass land navigation evaluation with less than one point missed, complete the obstacle course on the first attempt and pass medical training.
  • The No. 1 APFT Award for the highest average score on the Army physical fitness test with 295.6, compared to the national average of 270. Not only was this the highest average in the 3rd Brigade, it was the highest average in the country.

Ranger Challenge

Twenty-seven teams from Army ROTC programs in the Midwest competed in the annual Ranger Challenge at Camp Dodge in October. Cyclone Battalion's Cardinal Team placed first and Gold Team placed third. Iowa State also sent an all-female team for the first all-female division competition. The Lady Cyclones won first place. The Cyclone Battalion has placed first in 10 out of the last 11 Ranger Challenge Competitions. 

Cyclone Battalion