By Capt. Levon BurtonAugust 14, 2018
HOHENFELS, Germany - Clearing a fortified trench is one of the most difficult, but crucial tasks, that an infantryman must be proficient in. A critical piece of the puzzle is coordinating the various components needed to successfully suppress, breach and enter a trench. Cadet Nathaniel Mason filled this role as the Radio Telephone Operator for 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, during Squad Scenario Training Exercises in the Hohenfels Training Area July 30, 2018, as part of their train up for a live fire exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
Central State University, in Ohio, sent Mason to the Joint Multination Readiness Center as part of the Cadet Troop Leadership Training program in order to experience life in a regular Army unit. The real-world leadership experience cadets gain from CTLT can be an incredibly valuable learning tool for future officers.
"In ROTC, I'm trying to do the best that I can to get the branch that I want,' said Mason. "But here you need to take a step back and realize that it is not about you at all, it's about your Soldiers."
He quickly learned the real-world constraints that apply to training unlike the scenarios cadets work through during their Military Science courses and field problems.
"We went into the field with 24 Soldiers of a platoon of 40 and that's not something we are trained on at all," added Mason.
Mason's arrival was well timed, as he had the chance to apply the tactical knowledge he has gained from the ROTC program directly with line Soldiers.
"I'm glad Cadet Mason had the chance to participate in our squad STX," said Staff Sgt. Mark Blackwell, the Weapons Squad Leader. "We started out from the Operation Order, making the terrain model and went through each step of the Troop Leading Procedures, so he got to see first-hand how the rubber meets the road."
One of the bigger concerns new platoon leaders have when first joining a platoon is their first interaction with the platoon sergeant. Mason arrived to 1st Platoon the same day that they were receiving a new platoon sergeant so he got to see the transition process and initial Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant interaction.
1st Lt. Matthew Carr, Mason's sponsor and platoon leader, said, "It can be a smooth process if you show the platoon sergeant that you have respect for the experience and the domain that he is going to be dealing with and understand your roles to play."
"A Co. has been super welcoming," said Mason. "I think they all understand that I am getting a ton out of this, and I really hope more cadets get the opportunity to do this because it has been really beneficial for me."