Rising yearlings return to Buckner for field training
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (June 5, 2014) — The Class of 2017 Cadet Chasen Brown looked at the obstacle in front of him, and hesitated. It’s called The Weaver—a series of giant logs in a wicked pyramid formation that cadets have to maneuver over and under from the bottom to the top and back down.
For the rising yearlings at Cadet Field Training, it was their first time at Camp Buckner’s Marne Obstacle Course. Already five days into training, Brown simply wasn’t feeling capable at this particular station.
“I’ll take a no-go here; I just don’t have it in me,” he told his squad mates.
A little encouragement and a lot of self-motivation got him onto the first log, then the next and then another. Although he paused many times throughout, the Army Football linebacker completed the obstacle with a smile.
“That was a gut check,” Brown said. “You have to look inside yourself and see if you really want to quit or not. I didn’t want to let my team down by quitting.”
After finishing the course—19 obstacles in all—he was a little winded but feeling accomplished.
“I got past it, so that was a pretty good confidence booster,” Brown said.
Brown wasn’t the only cadet rising to the challenges on Marne. Some obstacles took repeat performances for cadets to complete, like The Dirty Name—though no one seems to know how this name originated. It required balancing on one log before leaping across to another. With arms wrapped precariously around, cadets had to quickly pull themselves over it before slipping off.
Some cadets would consider this part of CFT as confidence building—fun and thrilling—and for others, confidence shaking. Nowhere is that more apparent than at the Water Confidence Course. This course, under the supervision of Department of Physical Education instructors, requires only two tasks to complete.
First, cadets had to zip-line across Lake Popolopen before letting go of the handle mid-air. If done right with legs extended outward—not downward—it is a painless plunge. Extraneous movement can lead to belly flops or nose dives.
The hardest of the two events was the balance beam, where cadets had 60 seconds to walk across a steel beam, up and over a couple steps and across to a platform. All it requires is putting one foot in front of the other without deliberation. Stopping is bad. Stopping leads to uncontrollable knee shaking and panic, or “losing your legs” as the DPE instructor said.
“As soon as I got one step on, I could feel it wobble, but then I put my other foot down and kept moving to where it wasn’t bad,” Class of 2017 Cadet Malcolm Edgar, 2nd Platoon, 2nd Squad, said.
At the other end is a platform where cadets climb onto a rope and inch themselves, using hands and feet, across a short distance. Before going feet first into the lake, cadets had to perform a pullup and ask permission to drop.
“It was awesome,” Class of 2017 Cadet Macy Miller, 2nd Platoon, 2nd Squad, said after taking the drop into water.
From one obstacle course to another, the cadets didn’t seem fatigued much by the day’s activities. Miller said having squad support made it seem less tiring than it was.
(Above) Class of 2017 Cadet Colin Shepard is encouraged by members of his squad to complete the Low Belly Crawl obstacle at the Marne Confidence Course.
(Right) The Balance Beam and the Slide for Life are the two obstacles rising yearlings had to complete May 30 during the first iteration of Cadet Field Training at Camp Buckner.
The obstacle appeared daunting at first but Class of 2017 Cadet Chasen Brown managed to finish it with his squad May 30 at the Marne Confidence Course at Camp Buckner.
“It’s tough, but you keep moving. I can’t complain, I’m loving it,” Miller, who will attend Airborne School in July, said. “We’ve been shooting for the last three days and the hardest thing for me was the ruck march from range to range.”
The cadets were trained on movement shooting, practicing in the glass houses on how to clear rooms using live rounds and learning about improvised explosive devices. The challenge, Miller said, was collecting all their gear afterward and rucking about two and a half hours to another range. Edgar agreed that after an already long day that was a rough ruck.
“Even though it was the most challenging, having your squad pushing each other to do well made it the most rewarding, too,” he said.
The cadets, all assigned to Company G, were tackling CFT requirements early this summer so they could support Cadet Leader Development Training as the opposition force, which required additional training by a task force. Many said they were looking forward to the experience of operating in a tactical environment for the first time. The hope was to learn a lot and have fun defeating the cows and firsties.
“We’re excited for the chance to attack them, and make it hard for them,” Miller said.
“I could not be more excited to get out there. I think it’s going to be a great experience getting to do different raids and attacks,” Edgar said. “But also, maybe, getting to attack some upperclassmen I know.”
It’s quite a different Buckner than the one they encountered during Beast.
“Less than a year ago we were here and it’s crazy to think how much we’ve been through since then,” Edgar said.
The rest of their classmates will begin CFT later this June.