Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 2, 2013) — Having successfully completed Cadet Field Training, the Class of 2016 cadets were promoted to the rank of cadet corporal at an awards ceremony July 25 at Camp Buckner.
The ceremony recognized not only the yearlings for having endured a grueling 19-day training schedule but also the cadet cadre of Task Force Pedersen-Keel for the weeks spent in preparation and then leading the Class of 2016.
Class of 2014 Cadet Brendan Lorton took his place in front of 5th Company as its commander, but found himself repeatedly out of formation to receive awards. His company earned the Fire Support Award for demonstrating proficiency in calling for and observing indirect fires and the Land Navigation Award for recording the highest score on the long course.
With hands already full, Norton also accepted the N.Y. National Guard Trophy for 5th Company. Lorton was also the recipient of the Commandant’s Award for Best Company Commander.
After the ceremony, Lorton met with his company one last time. He had three goals for them during CFT and he was proud to say they were accomplished.
“One goal was to learn about responsibility and accountability, which they did,” Lorton said. “And then I wanted to see them grow as leaders, which they demonstrated by switching through team leader positions and making decisions for the team.” If they were successful in that criteria, then the last goal would also be likely—earning Best Company.
Lorton said the bulk of his duties came during the two weeks of the Leader Training Program prior to CFT when company commanders planned out training events.
“It was the platoon sergeants, platoon leaders and squad leaders who executed the missions and met my intent every time,” he said. “They did a great job and I can’t take credit for how well the company did.”
“Well” may be a modest assessment given the awards they garnered.
“From day one I thought the company was very cohesive,” Lorton said. “You could see that in the cadre during LTP and then when the Class of 2016 came in we kept that status quo. That’s essentially why I think we were so successful.”
Lorton’s first sergeant, Class of 2014 Cadet Andrew Mitchell, said the awards speak volumes about the yearlings.
“The cadre was able to engage the rising yearlings the best we could during training,” he said, “but, ultimately, the yearlings had to take charge, keep the motivation high and execute the training at their level.”
Mitchell was confident they’ve earned the new rank.
“We put them through some pretty high-tempo training these past few weeks that was physically demanding,” he said. “Last year, they completed the crawl phase and now they’re into the walk and next year will be the run. I think they’re ready for some new challenges.”
The Gen. Simon B. Buckner Award is awarded annually for the best performance in military qualification standards during CFT to the top yearling in the regiment. The award was presented to Class of 2016 Cadet Catherine Sedy from 7th Co., 1st Platoon, 1st Squad, who was only the second female recipient since it was first introduced in 1991.
“For me, this award means it was a successful summer and I had a great team to work with,” Sedy said. “It means a lot because of the history behind it and there’s a lot of great leadership represented. I’m just proud to uphold the traditions and memories of those who came before me.”
Sedy said the challenge in CFT was the day-to-day physical demand placed on cadets. Going from one training site to another could seem never-ending at times.
“I thought it was a great setup how the training was constant and never really boring at all,” she said. “So the most difficult part was to keep working each day and keeping motivation up even when you’re really hungry, tired or hot.”
Class of 2016 Cadet Alex Duffy earned the Superintendent’s Award for overall CFT performance and said he was grateful for the recognition and felt the training prepared him to take on more responsibilities this academic year.
The Cadet Field Training Awardees
• The Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel Memorial Award: Class of 2014 Cadet Doug Oss, 7th Company
• Sean C. Knott Memorial Award: Class of 2016 Cadet Harrison Majors
• The Superintendent’s Award: Class of 2016 Cadet Alex Duffy
• Commandant’s Award for Best Company Commander: Class of 2014 Brendan Lorton, 5th Co.
• Sergeant Major’s Award for Best First Sergeant: Class of 2014 Cadet Blake Hunnewell, 6th Co.
• Best Overall Squad Leader: Class of 2015 Cadet Stephen Chong, 1st Co., 4th Platoon, 3rd Squad
• Best Overall Platoon Sergeant: Class of 2015 Cadet Daniel Pinho, 3rd Company
• N.Y. National Guard Trophy: 5th Company
• Highest APFT: Class of 2016 Cadet Marc Samland and Class of 2016 Cadet Madison Hill
• Top Recondo Squad Award: 3rd Squad, 4th Platoon, 1st Co.
• Top Recondo Platoon Award: 4th Platoon, 2nd Co.
• Top Recondo Company Award: 2nd Co.
• Top Recondo Score—Female: Class of 2016 Cadet Helen Zhao
• Top Recondo Score—Male: Class of 2016 Cadet Dallas Jones, 6th Co.
• Department of Physical Education Best Co.Award (highest average APFT score): 2nd Co.
• Fire Support Award: 5th Co.
• Land Navigation Award: 5th Co.
To kick off the Small Unit Leader Development training, Class of 2016 cadets experienced synchronized Chinook landings where they learned to move tactically to an assembly area before establishing patrol bases. Platoons conducted overnight reconnaissance and repelled opposition force assaults in their areas of operation.
“It’s a huge opportunity and I’m ready to take the next step to lead,” Duffy said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel Memorial Award, for the platoon leader who best exemplified the seven Army values and the concept of officership throughout Cadet Field Training, was presented to Class of 2014 Cadet Doug Oss, 7th Co.
“Receiving this award says a lot about my platoon,” Oss said. “I was really lucky to have worked with those guys in 4th Platoon. Capt. Pedersen-Keel lived his life in a way where people were willing to emulate him, and that’s how I want to live mine.”
Every CFT imparts a little misery upon its trainees and for many the Small Unit Leader Development training was the source this summer.
This event included a regiment-level planning process for the eight companies to conduct synchronized air assaults, reconnaissance and platoon-level attacks on different objectives against an opposition force. Some of the small unit planning and rehearsals occurred into the night in preparation for an early-morning operation.
Her SULD was scheduled during two days of rain, and Sedy said the hot and sweaty days turned shivering cold at night.
“But that was actually one of the better nights because everyone was so miserable that we thought it was awesome,” she said. “It was a great learning opportunity to see the different levels of leadership in action throughout the mission and how everyone took part in it.”
Duffy said his company seemed to thrive in this field environment, even when repelling a late night attack from 10th Mountain Division Soldiers.
“There’s a lot of good stories that came out of it, but I know I was proud of how we bonded and helped each other out,” Duffy, from 2nd Co., 3rd Platoon, 3rd Squad, said.
The yearlings rotated as team leaders throughout the training, marking a significant stretch from what they experience last summer.
“It helped us get out of that shell of being a plebe where you only had to worry about yourself,” Duffy said. “During CFT, we had to take responsibility for others and this was a good stepping stone for future leadership details.”
Class of 2016 Cadet Marc Samland, a member of the West Point Marathon Team, earned the award for highest APFT score among male cadets.
He said it felt good to have completed CFT, however, recovery will have to wait as he leaves for Air Assault School.
“It’s been a great experience,” Samland, from 8th Co., 1st Platoon, 4th Squad, said. “The SULD was pretty rough. We got off the chopper and all our gear is wet. It poured, then we dried off and then it poured again. That evening, I think no one slept because it was so cold. Then in the morning we got up at 0230 to conduct an assault and we were still frozen.”
The guest speaker for the event was Maj. Reid Furman, a Class of 2000 graduate who served with Capt. Andrew Pedersen-Keel as his company commander in Afghanistan.
Furman, the executive officer for 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., spoke to the Class of 2016 about the man he knew as P.K.
“P.K. embodied the strength of character, the physical and moral courage and professionalism essential to leadership,” Furman said. “P.K.’s story and all he embodied is also the story of all those Soldiers you will soon lead.”
Pedersen-Keel entered West Point in the summer of 2002, “the first class to enter knowing we were an Army at war,” Furman said.
Furman said as a cadet, P.K. excelled in English, suffered through math, accumulated his share of demerits and stood out as a military leader during summer training.
“By the time he graduated in 2006, there was a full-blown insurgency in Iraq and a massive shift in U.S. doctrine,” Furman said. “What will you see as a cadet? How will what you experience here change and shape each one of you?”
Furman said as the Class of 2016 will be charged to lead and mentor the incoming class they will continue to learn the leadership skills necessary for officership.
“As you join the ranks of Cadet NCO Corps, each one of you will be tested,” he said. “This will continue when you’re lieutenants and throughout your careers. You may not be tested every day, but there will be a few times that will stand out ... when the weight is fully on your shoulders and you are called to stand and make a leadership decision.”