CBT cadre ready to lead West Point Class of 2015
June 29, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- All eyes fell past the cadets in the red sashes and onto the new arrivals marching onto the Plain for the oath ceremony. Over the course of several hours Monday, a remarkable transformation occurred turning the group of more than 1,200 from civilian status into the initial stage of becoming West Point cadets.
That couldn’t have happened without those red-sashed cadets, who spent countless hours over the past couple weeks training, planning, rehearsing and executing a precise and orderly operation. The pressure on new cadets to execute a perfect “right turn, march” and “eyes, front” was the same for the cadet cadre to make it happen.
The number of cadre reaches just over 270 and they have delivered the first impression, the first orders, the first reassurance and the first stern words to the new cadets. They’ve set the tone and the standards for Cadet Basic Training, which they will lead during the first three weeks in the summer detail.
“The first impression is always the greatest,” Regimental Commander Angela Smith, Class of 2012, said. “The biggest thing I’m focused on is the tone in the way we are training the new cadets. We want to be role models, not demeanors. So we want to create stress through high standards, but not necessarily stress through any sort of demeaning activity or embarrassment like that.”
Knowing that more than 1,200 families have trusted their sons and daughters to their care, Smith said the cadre was more than up to the task.
“The first thing I noticed about this cadre is that they were all picked because they represent the best of West Point,” Smith said. “These are perfect examples of what the standard is here. It’s not just because they have the competence. They have respect, they are professional and they really want to do a good job.”
Practice makes perfect
Their areas of responsibility encompass physical and military training, academy familiarization and all the knowledge fit to print inside a hip pocket-sized handbook.
A two-week Leader Training Program prepared the cadets for the duties of Beast. Companies tackled the rigors of the Leader Reaction Course, rehearsed how they will administer the Army Physical Fitness Test and practiced medical and field training. More so than training, the program allowed cadets to forge bonds as squads, platoons and companies who will rely on each other for support during CBT.
“We’re constantly interacting, helping each other out and synching our ideas to operations, so the more we know how to work together and understand each other beforehand, the less we have to worry about afterward,” Smith said.
Company H Commander and Class of 2012 Cadet Demetrios Kolitsos has all the confidence in this chain of command’s ability to work together, from the regimental level to the squad leaders. Having spent ample time building camaraderie with his Co. H cadre, he said they kept motivated throughout the LTP and are ready to lead the 152 new cadets in their company.
“It’s a lot of responsibility and we take that very seriously,” Kolitsos said. “You can see that in the training, doing everything to standard. I cannot stress how great my guys are ... they’ve come together, done everything I’ve asked and have met and exceeded the standards.”
Long days and little rest
Considering most LTP days began at 5 a.m. and lasted until sundown, the cadre got the most from their training.
“We were putting in about 16 or 17 hour days,” Smith said. “We’re working hard, no doubt about it. And that was everyone"two weeks, training, planning and rehearsing.”
For R-Day alone, the cadre spent five days dedicated to preparing for what Smith said is arguably the most important day of summer training at West Point. They performed several rehearsals, and afterward reviewed videotape to make improvements on the way they addressed new cadets and expedited the dozens of stations during the inprocessing. All the new cadet-issued supplies were inventoried, distributed and arranged in the barracks in specific arrangements"everything from laundry bags and linen to ruck sacks and ammo pouches.
Step up to my line, not on my line, not over my line…
Cadre members had to memorize R-Day scripts according to their duties that day, delivering caution on removing contraband at the amnesty point or telling parents they had 90 seconds left with their sons and daughters.
“Every single person has a script to memorize and locations to be at,” Smith said. “The parade also requires tons of practice, knowing when to march off, when to turn and what commands to give. We’ll know the in’s and out’s of everything.”
Pride in service, strength as one
The tone, Smith said, resonates in the CBT motto: Pride in service, strength as one. “Pride in service” is a reminder of the time they spend serving each other at West Point that will ultimately lead to serving the nation afterward.
“We wanted the focus on pride in service, because it’s really a great honor to come to West Point,” Smith said. “Sometimes we can take that for granted after being here awhile, but the opportunities are amazing and the fact that we will eventually become platoon leaders serving America’s sons and daughters"it’s huge.”
“Strength as one” reinforces the idea of camaraderie and teamwork"the sort this cadre developed while creating the CBT operation will be instilled in the new class of cadets. Smith remembers being in the barracks on R-Day with her two roommates. They told each other how hard this experience would be but they would get through it together.
“That was pretty much the first conversation I had with my roommates and I felt fortunate knowing I was here with a thousand other like-minded people who would help me through this,” Smith said. “It was never going to be me alone. As much as R-Day was nerve-wracking and scary, it was also reassuring knowing we were all doing this together.”
Companies take charge
The LTP is designed to train up cadre on everything from administering a physical training test, navigating the Leader Reaction Course to leading a platoon through First Responder medical training in a scenario-based exercise. While doing so, the cadets are able to brainstorm ideas on how they will conduct this training with the new cadets. There’s opportunity here, Smith said, for the cadre to develop their own style of leadership.
“They can alter the training to what they think will be best for their companies,” Smith said. “If they want to implement artillery simulations, arrange for blanks in their weapons or even choose a different location for training, that’s the kind of things they’re thinking about.”
She said that some training, like PT, can be conducted by companies while other events are best-suited at the squad or platoon levels. Administering the “nose hose” or nasopharyngeal airway and the IV for the first time requires patience and discipline, Smith said, which is more conducive by squads.
Some locations may have strategic value for lane training"remote, authentic battlefield environment, conducive to artillery support. The training schedule is different for each company"therefore one group of cadets may have already completed marksmanship or field communication training before entering the Soldier First Responder lane.
“So when the cadre creates these training scenarios they do so knowing what the new cadets have already learned and what they haven’t yet,” Smith said. “The company commanders are given their own autonomy in terms of creating training, as long as they meet our desired outcomes across the board. They’ll be assessed on those outcomes by our regimental assessment teams.”
The outcomes-based training allows company commanders leeway to create the best program possible as long as the end state for each company is the same.
“You will see each company do something different, but it’s the same concepts taught and hopefully the same outcomes throughout,” Smith said.
Class of 2012 Cadet Nolan Melson, a platoon leader in Company D, is in charge of 44 new cadets with four squad leaders and a platoon sergeant.
He’s not the type of leader to micromanage, so the preparation for CBT was all about making sure his squads are ready for the task.
“My focus was on enabling my squad leaders to be in charge of their new cadets. I’ll give them the resources they need and keep them informed of the planning necessary so they can carry out the training,” Melson said.
The culminating event is the Goeke Challenge, a tribute to a fallen West Point graduate, which starts at the B1 Company area where the former cadet resided.
The challenge will take squads of new cadets to points throughout West Point where they’ll learn the history of that location"such as Trophy Point or Michie Stadium"and then perform either a physical, knowledge or military skills task.
At the end of three weeks, the first detail will relinquish command to a new cadre entrusted with the responsibility to see CBT to the end.
Smith said their success will not be evident on a checklist or by a number, but by the motivation, discipline and knowledge they were able to provide the new cadets.
“New cadets will need to understand the basic military skills that we conduct, but they also need to understand the military culture and environment that we’ve established,” Smith said. “My hope is that at the end of our detail, the new cadets will carry a high level of motivation and optimism into continuing their training.”