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Public Affairs : Class of 2016 takes on CFT

Class of 2016 takes on CFT

Story and photos by Mike Strasser

Assistant Editor

WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 17, 2013) — There were back flips and back flops, Rocket calls and cannonballs. The operative word at the water confidence course at Camp Buckner is “confidence” and the Class of 2016 cadets have been demonstrating it in abundance during Cadet Field Training.

Members of Army Gymnastics team assigned to 7th Company honored a team tradition July 10 by executing backflips into the water to finish the confidence course. Class of 2016 Cadet Connor Ezell started it off for the team in perfect form. While the backflip was familiar territory for the gymnast, a lot of the training won’t be for the rising yearlings.

“There’s always a challenge when you’re doing something new for the first time—like patrolling,” the 7th Co., 2nd Platoon, 2nd Squad member said. “I’m excited for it though.”

Class of 2016 Cadet Michael Kerwin is a member of the “rough, tough, fluff” Battle Pandas from 7th Company’s 1st Platoon. Emerging from the water confidence course, Kerwin explained how hard it was to hold onto that shaky cable. It was miserable, actually, using hands and feet to move across 30 feet before asking permission to drop into the water, he said.

“It’s a lot skinnier than I thought it would be and I couldn’t hold on,” the 3rd Squad member said. “I was just thinking how bad I wanted to let go.”

Crossing the balance beam wasn’t any easier. He froze momentarily once he got up to it and experienced uncontrollable leg shakes, but Kerwin managed to get across.

“I feel more confident now having finished it,” he said. “If I had to do it over again I’d do it better.”

That’s what CFT is all about, he said. Gaining confidence in their abilities while learning new military skills.

“It’s about becoming more confident in yourself so you can start making decisions on your own,” he said.

After a long year of being a plebe at the U.S. Military Academy, the rising yearlings are spending 19 days at Camp Buckner engaged in military training and learning lessons in leadership during CFT.

But no longer restrained by the rigors of academics, it’s out in the field where personalities emerge.

“Just trying to be silly and have some fun with it,” Class of 2016 Cadet Joshua Olivas said, after hanging by his legs off the cable before taking the 25-foot plunge. “Going across the beam wasn’t too challenging but then coming across the rope was tiring because the adrenaline is pumping and your arms are getting heavy.”

“That was fun,” Class of 2016 Cadet Catherine Sedy said. “It’s a little different because you’re not used to going through obstacles like that, but it wasn’t too hard. CFT has been great. You can’t get this at any summer camp. None of my peers back home get to do this.”

Over at the fire support lane, members of 4th Company were learning how to operate as “the eyes of the artillery.” Cadets used a compass to find the direction and estimate the distance to a target on the range, then communicate that information to the artillery battery. If they directed the mortar off-target, cadets had another chance to correct it on the next round of fire.

“I did fairly well,” Class of 2016 Cadet Donald Goff, 4th Co., 3rd Platoon, 1st Squad, said. “It’s hard at first because I’ve never had to judge distances that long before, but the (noncommissioned officers) out here helped us out a lot.”

Those NCOs and officers supporting this lane came from the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C. A team of 16 Soldiers from HHC, 2-504th, allowed cadets to get hands-on with the howitzers and other equipment in the field and demonstrated how to effectively communicate the call for fire before being graded on the task.

“I’m thinking about branching infantry or field artillery so this is really interesting because it’s the first time I’ve worked with any kind of artillery,” Goff said. “It will help me with the decision process.”

Like many of his classmates, Goff said CFT is a giant leap from what they experienced last summer at Cadet Basic Training.

“I felt last year we were just getting used to West Point, and now this is our first chance to really get into military training,” he said. “This was our first real day of field training and it was awesome.”
Personalities emerge within the rising yearlings as they step up to the challenge of Cadet Field Training after a long year of being plebes at the U.S. Military Academy.

Training at the fire support lane was provided by Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C. About 15 trainers from HHC, 2/504th instructed rising yearlings during Cadet Field Training on the equipment used and the procedure for calling in fire support. Cadets were told to rehearse line-for-line what they would communicate over the radio and to write down every word to avoid confusion later.

The Cadet Field Training cadre allowed no moment to go wasted as rising yearling were tasked with donning protective masks while waiting their turn on the marksmanship range.