Cadets train at Sandhurst Academy
Story by Class of 2014 Cadet Blake Bucknam
Special for the Pointer View
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 2, 2013) — Forty-four cadets joined officer cadets at the British Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst July 2 for an opportunity to train with their British counterparts and foster a better understanding of the military tactics and culture between two close allies.
Upon arrival at Sandhurst, we were immediately welcomed and integrated into separate Sandhurst platoons. Much of the first week’s events focused on training for and completing the “March and Shoot” competition, a challenging event that tested the physical and mental aspects of a platoon-sized element, which we competed in as two American platoons. The event required us to conduct a “kit-run” with full equipment, casualty evacuation drill, obstacle course and a live-fire shooting event.
As our British counterparts approached the last month before graduation, their final test is a training exercise along the coast of Scotland named “Exercise Dynamic Victory.” This is their opportunity to demonstrate the military skills and leadership they have developed over the previous year at Sandhurst. Likewise, this exercise was an opportunity for us to develop our tactical skills, gain experience in the field and demonstrate our own leadership potential, all while giving us credit for Cadet Leader Development Training.
Part of the added challenge here was learning the different tactics used by the British Army. I have found that much of our tactical fundamentals are similar, but our differing doctrine means things definitely look and sound different.
For example, we have different methods of reacting to contact, patrolling and assaulting fixed positions. This led to a lot of discussions before missions as the American and British cadets learned from one another.
Dynamic Victory is divided into three phases: a rural phase in the Galloway Forest, an urban phase and a live-fire phase. One of my greatest learning experiences came from dealing with the insurgents and villagers during the urban phase. Much like the National Training Center scenario I had the opportunity to view earlier this summer through Cadet Troop Leader Training, Sandhurst had role players to act as both villagers and sometimes insurgents in the town of “Dal-Beattie,” right next to our base.
During our patrols, the villagers loved messing with the Americans (such as trying to take our flags, messing with our kit and running alongside us when we passed along the street). They would also stage riots around the police station near the base, and would hide munitions amongst their homes that we were sometimes tasked to locate and confiscate. This sort of urban environment was new to me and I benefited from being placed in an unfamiliar location and given missions that constantly developed into more complex problems.
The whole Sandhurst experience is proving to be invaluable for us. Our Sandhurst hosts could not have been more welcoming, either in training or in the social environment, back at Sandhurst. They took us to their company events, including a Cricket match they staged on the Fourth of July in our honor, and have been eager to show us as much of the UK as they could during our time off. Additionally, their staff is always willing to offer advice, mentorship and training to us.
I went into Sandhurst expecting a rugged field exercise which would challenge me in new ways. Even with three training days still to go, I am definitely getting what I expected. However, I am also learning about the world from the British perspective, about our national relationship with them and common problems facing future officers in general.
Additionally, I benefited from the other West Point cadets who, like me, were eager to take part in all these events. In my platoon, the British cadets often harass us for being so optimistic, but honestly I think that we came here excited to participate in something we all volunteered for, trained for and have really anticipated all year. My time with the Sandhurst cadets is proving to be one of the most developmental events during my West Point experience.