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Public Affairs : Yearlings hone patrolling skills

Yearlings hone skills in patrolling exercise 

Story and photos by Sgt. Jonathan Monfiletto
138th MPAD
WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 24, 2014) — They may not have reached the objective, but they learned what they could do better next time and they honed their skills both as warriors and as leaders.

That is what Cadet Sgt. Samuel Andersen, Cadet Pfc. Taylor Boylan and Cadet Pfc. Hyanghwa Kwak said after the three U.S. Military Academy cadets served as squad leader and two team leaders, respectively, during a patrolling exercise with five of their fellow 3rd Company cadets July 19.

The exercise was part of Small Unit Leadership Development, a summer program that helps cadets heading into their sophomore year learn both Soldier and leadership skills.

On July 19, the cadets spent the day going squad by squad on patrol through the woods of Camp Buckner in pursuit of an object before heading back to their patrol base.

The mission was to set up a hasty ambush on an enemy convoy and collect any intelligence left behind.

The 3rd Company cadets, however, fell a few hundred meters short of their objective and instead set up a linear ambush on the road.

The squad ran out of time to reach the objective and waited about 20 minutes for the vehicle to drive by before marching back to the patrol base.

Still, Andersen, the squad leader, said he was happy with how his cadets performed.

“They went over some pretty bad terrain with a lot of gear,” he said. “They were pretty patient waiting there at the site and maintained a lot of discipline in movement to and from. … We learned a lot about how we can improve for next time.”

Kwak, a team leader, agreed that the squad worked very well together despite missing the objective.

“We were all really clear on what the objective was at least and what our tactics and plan was going in,” she said. “At least we communicated a lot, and no one got hurt, no one got lost.”

A U.S. Military Academy cadet from 3rd Company pulls security in the woods around Camp Buckner as part of a Small Unit Leadership Development training exercise July 19. Cadets from 3rd Company patrol the woods around Camp Buckner as part of SULD, which helps future military officers learn both Soldier and leadership skills.
A U.S. Military Academy cadet taps his buddy on the shoulder to signal he is ready to take over the position while surveying the road during a patrolling exercise at Camp Buckner as part of Small Unit Leadership Development July 19. SULD helps future military officers learn both Soldier and leadership skills.

For future squad missions, the cadets can work on their land navigation skills and a better route and plan to get to the objective.

“That was just a really tough route over the mountain,” Boylan said. “That steers you away from where you need to go. If we (could have gotten) that land nav, we would’ve nailed it.”

“Especially when we have such little time to move to the objective, it would be better for us to take easier terrain,” Andersen said, adding the squad needs to be more exact with its ambush site. “We have limited information on where the vehicle’s going to be so we might as well go to exactly where we can.”

As a team leader for that exercise, Kwak said that role helped her hone leadership skills in a real scenario.

“I definitely had to make sure that I was accountable for all those in my team and I consistently check if they’re good on ammo, if they’re good on liquid and how they’re feeling,” she said.

And, Andersen said, the squad members take their leadership roles seriously and extend them beyond a training exercise, which he added makes him proud.

“Something I’ve noticed with them all is that when they’re team leader, they eat last,” he said. “They make sure their cadets eat first, checking on their water, ammo and all that good stuff.”

As the cadets of 3rd Company continue through SULD with the rest of their fellow cadets, Boylan said they have what it takes to be military leaders in the future. “The cohesion is there. The confidence is there,” he said. “We all feed off of each other and get along really well. That’s really important to being a leader—developing that group cohesion and being able to have that peer leadership.”