With rays of sunlight streaming through the dense canopy of trees, 7th Regiment Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets quietly crawled through the Washington wilderness, the earth crunching beneath their feet.
After setting up their mission, the team moved into hidden positions to ambush, weapons pointed at the coming enemy.
As part of the Leader Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Cadets spend time in the woods at the squad situational training exercise, relying on leadership and each other to complete each mission.
“I’ve learned that teamwork is essential for any leader and that you cannot succeed on your own,” said 7th Reg. Cadet Samuel Kolkow, an agricultural science major at Wentworth Military Academy from Huntsville, Utah. “You need your battle buddy to your left and to your right to help you out.”
This mission was one of six they had for the day during the squad situational training exercise. The training site is a seven-day process, culminating in two patrolling days of six hours apiece.
“This year, we are focusing a little bit more on the-after-action-reviews, the developmental process versus just strictly evaluating the whole time,” said David Ramsey, operations officer for the tactics committee.
Previous summers at LDAC, Cadets would get two evaluations during the squad situational training exercise and now it is just one.
At another mission, Cadets walked quietly toward the objective, practicing hand signals in silence and working as a squad to get to the reconnaissance site.
Focusing as a team during the mission, the squad leader, team leaders and other members set up the perimeter around the clearing before patrolling to the objective.
Planning is a huge part of the training operations at LDAC and is important for Cadets to grasp in order to lead as well as follow in order to carry out the assignment.
“Squad situational training [STX] lanes is definitely the highlight of any training event or training school I go to because it is a chance for us to essentially practice what we preach,” said Kolkow. “As future leaders, planning is a huge part of our lives and we get out here we are able to develop the plan and execute it.”
Being a leader at STX is a position every Cadet is put in during the seven day process. It can be difficult at times since they are all trained as leaders, bumping heads occasionally. Other times, teams work together well and complete the mission without a problem.
“When things aren’t hairy and things are going smoothly, it is the best position in the world,” said 7th Reg. Cadet Connor Maginnis, business administration student at the University of Oregon. “If you have good subordinate leadership, your plan will be a success. They know what to do and will follow your orders.”
For some Cadets, the most difficult part of this training is the leadership they have to project onto their peers.
“They don’t have to be tactical geniuses out here to succeed,” said Ramsey. “It is more about making a decision and being confident.”
For other Cadets, working as a team is a barrier they face.
“What’s really been difficult is just kind of getting to know the people really well around you because those are the people you are going to be doing the mission with,” said 7th Reg. Cadet Bryce Martinez, criminal justice major at New Mexico Military Institute. “If you don’t know them really well, then it’s going to be hard to get traction and conduct the mission.”
This training will prepare Cadets to successfully lead enlisted Soldiers who will have more experience than them.
“A lot of your Soldiers who you are going to be around when you are a second lieutenant, they are going to be all about tactics,” said Martinez. “They really help develop you and teach you what your Soldiers go through so you can get an idea on how to lead them.”
Story by Sara Nahrwold.