Training for Sandhurst
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Jan. 29, 2014) — A nasty morning wind chill greeted the cadets as they began another training session Jan. 25 in preparation for the 2014 Sandhurst Military Skills Competition in April.
There’s no doubt the Corps of Cadets is a physically-fit bunch. Still, to succeed in Sandhurst, the roughly 400 cadets making up 36 West Point teams must take it to another level.
“Fit is never fit enough for the Sandhurst Competition,” Class of 2015 Cadet Colin Dorner, from the Company G-4 team, said. “A good PT score in the Army is like 275 and there’s no one on our Sandhurst team below a 300.”
During an intra-battalion competition Saturday, team leaders were able to assess proficiency, endurance and teamwork. Some of the tasks required teams to move themselves and their equipment over the Ranger Wall, a Humvee push, complete the Indoor Obstacle Course Test, grenade throw and more.
While 4th Regiment teams were conducting competitions that day, others were focusing on specific tasks. Class of 2014 Cadet Adam Gebner took his Co. D-1 team out to get quick and agile on Swiss seat techniques and the one-rope bridge. Not the easiest of tasks with fingers stiff from the cold but the team captain said they took it in stride.
“We just keep a good sense of humor; being able to laugh at being a little miserable helps the whole team get the training they need in order to be successful,” Gebner said. “It also helps when you have great team members who stay positive no matter what, and are just as dedicated to winning as you are.”
Gebner agreed that conditioning for Sandhurst requires a great effort.
Cadets on the Company C-3 team spent part of their Saturday working on physical training in preparation for the Sandurst Military Skills Competition scheduled April 11-12 at West Point.
Each member of the Co. D-1 team maneuvers across the one-rope bridge. The team is captained by Class of 2014 Cadet Adam Gebner.
The Company H-4 team tackles the Ranger Wall near South Dock Jan. 25 during an intra-battalion competition.
“To get there, it takes a lot of work focusing primarily on muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness,” he said. “Beyond that, we need to be able to do it in our full kit and then be able to perform tasks perfectly once we arrive at each site.”
Getting the right team meant tryouts were justifiably difficult.
“We tried to make the tryouts fairly strenuous, which led to about five people self-selecting out of the process,” Gebner said. “After that, it was all about assessing who worked well together and which group of nine and two alternates would give us the best chance at winning. Above all, we valued mental toughness, athleticism and intelligence as key deciding factors.”
Once the teams were assembled, training for most began with long endurance runs.
“You have to be able to think and perform over a long period of time,” Gebner said. “And strength is a factor. You definitely need muscular endurance to perform some of the tasks.”
Gebner said his team has planned out each day over the next 10 weeks to ready themselves for Sandhurst.
“We have been slowly approaching having at least two practices a day for four or five days of the school week,” Gebner said. “The morning workouts are always some sort of smoker, and in the afternoon we get a good mix of PT and skills training.
In addition, each week the Co. D-1 team conducts a mid-day practice to review land navigation, combat medical care, weapons and other Soldier skills.
Dorner said Co. G-4 is also on two-a-days, with two long distance runs and two sprint workouts and one muscular endurance session each week. Afternoons are for skills training but soon the team will merge that with the physical workouts.
As tough as the training is—and often in less than ideal weather—the ability to compete in this international military skills competition is worth it.
“Everyone on the team is excited to be here and they all love it the same way I do,” Dorner, who will compete in his third Sandhurst Competition, said. “So that makes it easier to work with people who love what they are doing.”