Southeastern University students put servant leadership into practice every day in countless ways.

For three students, their leadership skills recently were put to the test at a national competition, and they stood out among the best in the country.

Austin Sanderson, Alex Emrich and Steven Howard represented Southeastern and their ROTC battalion at the Leader Development Assessment Course held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington this past summer. The course, also called Warrior Forge, is a month-long exercise in which more than 5,500 cadets are ranked according to fitness, land navigation, leadership and academics.

Sanderson, a senior from Dunnellon, New Jersey, ranked 137th out of all the cadets who participated to finish in the top 2.5 percent in the country. Emrich, a senior from Minerva, Ohio, ranked 577th overall and is in the top 10 percent.

Howard, a senior from Biloxi, Mississippi, also completed the course, which includes an Army Physical Fitness Test, two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, a 2-mile run, day and night navigation tests, and simulated military exercises where cadets fill a different role each day, ranging from private to company commander.

“You treat it as if you’re being deployed,” Sanderson said. “It’s the biggest training event in the military.”

Southeastern’s students participated as part of the ROTC battalion based at Florida Southern College. Major Brent Reynolds, executive officer of the battalion, said his cadets tend to perform well at LDAC because he structures the battalion in the same way the course is structured. Each cadet fulfills a different role (weekly rather than daily) while in the battalion, and there are rigorous academic and physical standards.

“The cadets run everything, we just guide them toward what to do,” Major Reynolds said.

Howard, who plans to work in logistics through the National Guard, said the small size of the battalion gives Southeastern students an edge.

“We are a lot closer-knit group,” he said. “We compete hard and push each other.”

Sanderson hopes to enlist as an active duty infantry soldier. The hardest adjustment for him at LDAC was meeting so many new cadets with whom he had to work and lead during the course. He agreed that the leadership and expectations of the Lakeland battalion gave him an advantage over other cadets.

“They’re pushed for the minimum, we’re pushed to do the maximum,” he said.

Emrich, who is studying to be a pastor and wants to enter the infantry as a reservist, said the lack of sleep was a challenge. Cadets might average 4-5 hours each night during the month. But the reward can be great, as the cadets with the highest scores get their first choice of branch in the Army.

He said the training through the ROTC program, his studies at SEU and his experience at LDAC reinforced his belief about developing as a leader.

“You can train as much as you want,” he said. “But great leaders are born. From there it’s all about sharpening your skills as a leader.”