Cadre ready to lead Class of 2017 on Reception Day
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (June 26, 2013) — The Cadet Basic Training cadre is near the end of a two-week Leader Training Program to prepare them to instruct, guide and mentor the new cadets through the first iteration of CBT. On June 25, the cadet leadership met at the Leader Reaction Course to sort through the logistics of this training module. They got hands-on with the 13 obstacles with names like “POW Escape,” “The Wall,” “The Sultan of Swing” and “Stairway to Heaven” and attempted to complete each objective in the allotted 18 minutes. For many of them, this is the first time back to the LRC since their own basic training.
“By actually going through each obstacle they get to see how much of a team-building exercise this is,” said Class of 2014 Cadet Lindsey Danilack said. “When they are put through every single task that the new cadet must do, the cadre can see what issues come with it. They’ll find out the little things they can fix before the new cadets arrive.”
The cadre has already completed an exhausting litany of tasks to include medical response training, physical training test preparation, marksmanship, supply draws and briefings. Quite a few were fresh from Cadet Leader Development Training and were still sharing stories of that experience at Camp Buckner. It was no wonder that upon arriving at the LRC site, the group of more than 100 cadre members looked less than enthusiastic. But once they began the physical and mental challenges there were lots of applause and cheers as they rallied through the five-plus hours of training. It’s this kind of motivating teamwork that Danilack said the cadre should impart on the new cadets.
While the squad leaders worked together to solve the obstacles, the platoon leaders and company commanders concentrated on other issues like safety considerations on the course, time constraints and training requirements. The point of all this preparation—like the room-staging detail in the barracks where each new cadet room was situated with supplies in precise amounts and configuration—is to leave nothing to chance once the new cadets arrive. Or like Class of 2014 Cadet Alexander Canacci, the CBT command sergeant major put it, “After R-Day, it will be non-stop action. Like a freight train.” So essentially, this preparation ensures no one will be left behind once the train leaves the station, and no one gets run over either.
Timing matters plenty and the cadets rehearse everything, from processing new cadets through multiple stations on Reception Day to scheduling transportation to move companies to the range or other training sites. More so than being fixated on time, Danilack said good communication is essential to the success of the cadre. This applies not only among the cadre but how they interact with the new cadets. Developing cohesion through a positive command climate is something they learned during a recent briefing and have practiced in preparation for CBT.
“I can definitely see the cadre members really embracing this, and pushing for trust and confidence to create cohesion,” Danilack said. “It’s going to come together really well with the new cadets.”
Thus far, it’s been a successful operation leading up to R-Day, but also fair to say the training has not always gone as planned. But that’s a good thing, Danilack said. Like when they expected buses for the trip out to the LRC and were given LMTVs (the Army’s large cargo and troop loading vehicles). Then it becomes a matter of working through the situation with new guidance and new plans of executions.
“When things don’t go right during LTP it actually becomes a learning experience for us,” Danilack said. “It gives the cadre an opportunity to see what kind of decisions can be made in that situation.”
Getting stuck in the middle of storm during a six-mile foot march was a chance occurrence, but the cadre used it to practice contingency planning.
“There’s really no right versus wrong decision in that situation. It’s a matter of safety,” Danilack said. “The cadre was able to say ‘OK, my priority here is keeping my guys safe.’”
Safety is the ultimate measure of success, Danilack said, but she also wants the cadre to complete this first iteration of CBT knowing they created an environment of dignity and respect for the new cadets.
“If we can do everything with those values in mind than I believe we will be successful,” Danilack said.
As for the new cadets, Danilack would naturally like to see them all shoot expert in marksmanship and max their PT scores, but she’s looking for two things in particular.
“I want to see confidence and competence,” she said. “If they are able to demonstrate those two things throughout our detail, then you know they’ll continue through the rest of CBT with the highest standards and discipline which will then transition them successfully into the academic year.”
Danilack admits she doesn’t recall much from her own R-Day. A “big blur” she called it, not even remembering how she reported to the cadet in the red sash.
“I do remember sitting in my room, obviously pretty stressed out and not knowing really what is going on,” Danilack said. “But then my roommate came in, and I was just so excited to see another person I could talk to. I was very intimidated and scared by the cadre members so I wasn’t comfortable enough to speak with them. So my roommate and I sat there and vented. It’s the one memory of R-Day I clearly remember. “We’re still roommates today.”
She may not tell that story with the visiting parents dropping off their sons and daughters on R-Day but Danilack has another message to share when meets them.
“I want to assure them that their new cadets will be safe here and that our cadre members are well-trained,” Danilack said.
And within their first 48-hours at the academy, Danilack will have an opportunity to address the Class of 2017. She doesn’t want them to feel intimidated as she first was on R-Day or afraid to talk to her cadre.
“I want them to really understand that they are not here to be put down or belittled in any way. They are here as our number one priority for West Point,” Danilack said. “I want them to know that we’re concerned about them and their advancement at West Point. I will definitely tell the new cadets to be confident in what they do while they learn the standards and values that come with being a cadet and officer.”
During the Leader Training Program, the cadet cadre was cadets were at the Leader Reaction Course June 25 to practice the team-building obstacles in preparation for leading new cadets through this training during Cadet Basic Training.
The cadre for Cadet Basic Training went through the obstacles at the Leader Reaction Course, in part as a team-building exercise, but also to rehearse how they will conduct the training for the new cadets arriving July 1 for Reception Day.
In addition to the Leader Reaction Course, the cadet cadre conducted medical response training, physical fitness test preparation, breifings and R-Day rehearsals to prepare themselves for the arrival of the new cadets on July 1.
It’s worth noting that in this “train the trainer” program the cadets are supported by Soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment based out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Also known as Task Force Polar Bear, the Soldiers have provided medics, trainers and evaluators beginning with the Summer Leaders Experience, throughout Cadet Leader Development Training and continuing through the Leader Training Program, Cadet Field Training and Cadet Basic Training.
The cadet cadre for the first iteration of Cadet Basic Training took the name Task Force Lambka, in honor of 1st Lt. Todd Lambka, a Class of 2010 graduate and infantry officer who was killed in action Aug. 1, 2012, while serving in Afghanistan.
The CBT commander, Class of 2014 Cadet Lindsey Danilack said she was approached by some recent graduates who was a plebe in the company Lambka commanded as a cadet.
“They explained who he was, his character and the values he lived by,” she said. “Everything that he embodied is everything I want our cadre to be as leaders. Those cadets who were in his company had the utmost respect for this man. He was a true leader and demonstrated professionalism, team cohesion and just everything you could want from an officer.”