By Brandon OConnorJuly 24, 2019
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- After an academic year spent studying, cadets at the U.S. Military Academy put down their textbooks and backpacks for the summer and picked up an M4 and a ruck for Cadet Summer Training.
They are not alone in making the transition from focusing on academics to focusing on military training as members of the dean's faculty leave behind their classrooms and head out to training areas to help lead summer training and mentor cadets on how to be future platoon leaders.
"It's a great opportunity for the officers who work on the academic side to really get involved in the actual Army training," said Capt. Samuel Herbert, who during the academic year teaches in the Systems Engineering department and during the summer is the officer-in-charge of a live-fire range. "Our top priority is to educate, train and inspire the cadets throughout the course of their four years. So, we do a lot of educating during the year. And then in the summertime, they have the opportunity to train a lot."
His students may know Herbert as mostly a Systems Engineering professor, but throughout the summer he is relying instead on his skills learned as an infantry officer and introducing the cadets to the experiences he gained while earning his ranger tab.
But, even with camo paint on his face, a flak jacket on his chest and live ammunition flying through the woods, Herbert has found ways to pull his two roles together and continue to teach cadets about more than just military skills throughout the summer.
"The great thing for me is that systems engineering can be applied out here," Herbert said. "I see cadets who I've taught in the classroom, or cadets who are majoring in systems engineering, they're able to kind of understand how we can look at a squad live-fire as a complex system, and they can use some of the things that were taught in the classroom to apply it on the ground out here at the range."
Throughout summer training, which includes Cadet Basic Training, Cadet Field Training and more, there are 119 professors from departments throughout West Point assisting with training.
The goal, Lt. Col. George Mitroka, Regimental TAC officer for CFT, said, is to find skills professors have from their time serving in the Army and enable them to apply those skills to summer training.
"It's really awesome just to see them in a different capacity, in a different light, where they're still able to teach us and train us and facilitate our learning, but just in a way that isn't specific to the classes they've been teaching us," Class of 2020 Cadet Eden-Elizabeth Phillips, regimental commander for Cadet Field Training, said. "So, I think it gives them a lot more credibility with us to just see them out here and in this other environment."
The unique setup with professors assisting with summer training enables them to build relationships with cadets outside of the confines of the classroom and expand their ability to mentor cadets on not just their field of study, but on life as a Soldier.
They can then build on their shared experiences throughout the year when cadets have questions about which branch they should join, which post they should choose or what life is like in the Army.
"Teaching a technical subject, we only have a finite amount of time to really discuss things outside of say, digital logic or circuits," said Maj. Sean O'Neil, a professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department who is serving as the officer-in-charge of the close combat tactical trainer. "To actually interact with them out here, when you're operating under the guise of your basic branch just opens the aperture for the amount of questions that they're willing to ask you about their career path and how the branch operates and where they might fit in best."
Along with the chance to interact with cadets in a non-classroom environment, the staffs of the different departments participating in summer training are also given the opportunity to work together in ways they don't during the academic year.
The summer training staff includes representatives from the dean's faculty, the Department of Military Instruction, tactical officers and even the West Point Band.
While they each have different roles during the academic year, during the summer all the departments come together as one big West Point team to work together to train cadets to be future leaders in the Army.
"Seeing us all out here together it reinforces to them (the cadets), no matter what office we're with here at West Point, we're all part of the same team," Capt. Alexander Humes, a history professor who is working on the CFT S3 staff for the summer, said. "We're all members of the profession of arms."