By Mr. Michael Maddox (ROTC)March 15, 2017
FORT KNOX, Kentucky (March 8, 2017) -- Most people have heard the old adage, "You truly never know someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes." Students in the Observer Controller/Trainer Academy are doing just that as they train to help mold Cadets as cadre this summer during Cadet Summer Training (CST).
During the eight-day course, the future CST Advanced Camp cadre members have been learning the skills to train and coach Cadets in the fundamentals of tactics, and building confidence in their ability to observe, identify and assess leadership attributes and competencies for an accurate and fair evaluation. And what's the best way to do that? By going through the same experiences as Cadets.
The students train and test in all of the tactical portions of CST in in the classroom and during field exercises. Those field exercises sharpened the students, soon to be master OC/Ts, basic doctrinal types of operations like squad and platoon level tactics, creating and maintaining a patrol base, troop leading procedures, conducting AARs, doing area reconnaissance, and conducting ambushes for example.
David Shines, training administrator for the CST Leader Certification Program, said having the CST cadre experience what Cadets will experience this summer is essential to learning through their own successes and failures.
"No one is going to be coming behind these Cadre members and tell them what to do as they are working with the Cadets, so taking initiative and intervening or directing a Cadet who is doing something wrong is essential, they have to be able to identify that and then work out a solution on the fly," he said. "In this course the students are given a mission and an intent, and then they come up with how they are going to do their planning, their presentation, their mission, and it if remains within the safety and training objective boundaries of our cadre instructors that we have here, they let them go with that plan."
Shines added, this extra tactical training ensures all of the Cadre are equally versed in tactics and acting as an observer controller/trainer -- no matter what branch they come from.
"We have to account for people in the class who don't necessarily have the background or training because you get officers and NCOs from across the spectrum," he said. "For example, Adjutant General, Finance, Chemical officers - we would not expect to be as deep in tactical experience as your Infantry, Armor or Field Artillery officers or anyone else in the combat arms."
The students have the opportunity to learn from some of the best teachers during the O/CT Academy.
"We have had members of the Asymmetric Warfare Group come in and support us on this. They are all retired or former special operations guys with a very high level of confidence and competence -- especially in small unit tactics. They are teaching the first two courses, then support and advise for the other courses as selected USACC cadre OC/T Academy graduates take the lead." he said.
Each of one the 160 students/CST cadre members being trained as OC/Ts have been selected by their brigade. This will allow for one master Observer Controller/Trainer in every platoon in during Advanced Camp.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Lucania, Georgetown University, said he thinks being in a student role before being in grader role will make it easier to relate, and train, the Cadets.
"I've learned how to identify the short comings that I have, and how to improve upon them, so I can be a more useful asset for the Cadets," said Lucania. "Now that I can self-identify those short comings -- it will also help me identify what the Cadets are doing incorrectly and know when to step in and how to help them. Not to necessarily always give them the answer, but to ask them the questions that will lead to them thinking critically to get their own answers to accomplish the mission. I think after learning how to be an OC/T, it will just enhance their learning."
Capt. Matthew Myers, University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he thinks the class has also helped ensure all Cadre are on the same page this summer.
"We are getting back to the basics of teaching fundamentals to Cadets -- not taking all of our experiences through multiple deployments and units and teaching our different ways of doing business, but getting back to basics so that they don't have multiple cadre members telling them multiple ways to do something or contradicting one another," Myers explained. "We've also spent some time learning about different ways of developing training or assessing the training audience so we can ramp up the level of intensity to the right level where they aren't failing every time, but stressing them out and dialing it back a little bit so they are still getting training value out of it."
The last OC/T academy course will wrap up May 11, just in time to prepare for the first CST Cadets arrival May 25.