FORT KNOX, Ky. • Standing several feet from fellow cadets, Nick Lucca, had to find a way to move his team across the water using only one rope and his leadership skills.

He loved the challenge.

His four weeks at the Leader's Training Course at Fort Knox, Ky., provided a new summer experience for the 20-year-old Colorado Springs native who attends DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and is in the ROTC program at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

During the field training he rappelled down a 50-foot tower, jumped into a swimming pool with a ski mask over his face while holding a rifle over his head and got up at 4:30 a.m. every morning for PT, or physical training.

Lucca said the training made him more excited to be part of the military.

“My biggest takeaway from training is a better understanding of what soldiers go through,” Lucca said. “We experienced only a fraction of what an enlisted soldier goes through in training, and that seemed exhausting in itself.

“I have gained an even greater respect for the people already serving, but also a greater respect for the family I will be joining in two short years.”

Lucca said the course helped him improve one major leadership quality: decision-making.

“When I went to camp, I was confident in my abilities to lead, but a little hesitant in my decision making, because I wanted everything to be carefully calculated and work perfectly,” Lucca said. “After a while at camp, I came to realize you couldn’t always calculate what will happen in a mission or what will be thrown at you. You have to make a quick decision, and, right or wrong, if you look like you know what you’re doing, people will follow what you say.”

Sgt. Daniel Sisto, one of Lucca’s drill sergeants at the camp, said Lucca will someday be an excellent leader.

“He will one day be a good officer, guaranteed,” Sisto said. At Leadership Training Camp, “He’s going to learn some stuff, but it takes years to become a good leader. It takes trial and error.”

Lucca joined the ROTC program at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., as a way to cover his college tuition.                                                                 

“I have not looked back from my decision to join the Army,” he said, noting this mom and stepdad, Joan Rousseau and Donald Messmer of Colorado Springs, were both military officers.  “It was the best decision of my life.

“ROTC offers me an opportunity to experience new, adventurous things, and allows me the chance to give back to this country what it has given me and my family.”

Lucca, a 2009 graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs, also is heavily involved in sports at DePauw. He has been the goalkeeper for the soccer team, goalie and attack for the club lacrosse team and will be the punter for the football team this fall.

So, after his summer military camp, he’s ready to get back to school and continue his leadership development.

“It’s back to the old grind on Aug. 10. I have football training, school starts, and shortly after, I will be back to ROTC, hopefully in a leadership position, doing what I have quickly come to love and appreciate.”