WEST POINT, N.Y. — After receiving weeks of instruction on the basics of strategy and warfare, Cadet Field Training finally culminated with the Class of 2024 cadets performing numerous military procedures during the Field Training Exercise event between June 19-23 at Camp Buckner. The cadets applied everything they learned during CFT to perform various exercises such as react to contact, squad assault, squad defense, multiple forms of tactical training and nighttime patrolling, among other training events.
With the combination of pouring rain, lugging 40 pounds of gear, and executing missions designed to emulate real-life combat scenarios, the cadets came away from the experience more resolute.
Class of 2024 Cadet Ethan Fuhrman thoroughly enjoyed his training experience despite the onerous obstacles that came with it. The mental and physical challenges of the FTX made him stronger and more mentally equipped to deal with future challenges that may seem difficult at first glance, he said.
“The training was enjoyable — I like my squads, and it’s nice to spend more time with them. The people around me definitely made the experience better because last night [while performing nighttime exercises], we were really cold and we were all wet from the rain,” Fuhrman said. “We got rained on a lot more than we expected to, so dealing with wet clothes while performing these tactical maneuvers made it more complex for me. The weather played a psychological role in executing the mission.”
Regardless of the hardships the training presented, Fuhrman still enjoyed most of the exercises he performed, most notably, the nighttime operations.
“Not sure if there was an easy aspect to the training, but the most fun portion of the training was the night we would get attacked and have to defend our positions,” Fuhrman said. “We would stay up for a couple of hours in each shift and everyone who was pulling a shift had to be prepared to defend against enemy threats. So, essentially, defending against the unknown was one of the highlights of my training experience.”
The FTX has three components as the cadets started with an individual training event called "warrior tasks and drills." This exercise aimed to give cadets a basic understanding of using critical equipment such as radios and weapons, essentially giving them hands-on experience.
The second component was a team and squad-level exercise called "intro to patrolling." Members of the Army unit 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, came to Camp Buckner and taught the cadets basic unit-level drills and maneuvers.
“This unit is designed to train other international forces,” Maj. Joseph Ryan, a Military Strategy 200 instructor in the Department of Military Instruction, said. “This year, we brought them out again to help us teach our cadets some basic infantry-level tactics at the team, squad and platoon levels. That was a two-day exercise. So, all those individual and teamwork skillsets the cadets developed were used during this FTX.”
The third component, as part of the FTX, tested the cadets’ ability to fight in a simulated battle scenario against a unit called the OPFOR (the opposing force) to assess them on react-to-contact drills and ambushes, among other skill sets.
“There are lots of events all scattered during CFT. Some of these events are graduation requirements, some are commissioning requirements they have to do like qualifying on a weapons system, land navigation, team live fires, however, the FTX is designed, primarily, for a leadership component to see how you lead with your peers,” Ryan said. “It’s essentially being challenged to take the helm and be in charge. The FTX captures how well they can lead their peers.”
Class of 2024 Cadet Edward Jung said he understands the practical value in learning basic infantry tactics even though he wishes to pursue a career field that does not emphasize combat.
“We’ve been performing a lot of infantry training. Personally, I want to branch aviation. An individual outside the Army is probably thinking, ‘Why would you need to do infantry training if that’s not going to be the focal point of your career?’ Well, I feel basic infantry training sets a base standard for every cadet, regardless of where they want to branch,” Jung said. “Then as they progress through training, they eventually learn the specific craft they wish to pursue in the Army. That’s a great part of what I learned during this detail.”
Jung also learned the importance of friendship, teamwork and what it means to be true to yourself. For the FTX was already predestined and arranged to be a challenging environment.
It’s only a matter of time before the spirited trainees realize, at the moment when the challenge has reached its highest difficulty, that they are different now at this arduous point of training from how they initially started, Jung said.
Jung echoed Fuhrman’s sentiments on the terrible weather but said the rainy days, soaked clothes and cold nights had built character for every cadet. He added the FTX experience helped him understand that when you’re facing a new level of adversity, it brings out your true self.
During the training, there were moments of frustration where things didn’t always work out in their favor. However, through the hardships, he managed to form strong bonds with his peers.
“This detail is probably the first time I got to meet some of my best friends in this school. I know for a fact that when I graduate, I’m still going to be friends with these guys. That’s what it’s about, facing hardships and getting through it together as a team,” Jung said. “I’d say, in a weird way, by getting worse it’s also gotten better. The more you suck, the more you know that you’re learning and getting better. As you go through these hard moments in your life, you are cultivating your true self. You’re also learning more about your colleagues next to you.”
On the last day of the FTX, they transitioned to squad-level defense. After being attacked by the OPFOR, they received a fragmentary order for an air assault mission and planned an air assault movement that involved light infantry transport through a helicopter from Landing Zone BULL to Landing Zone OWL at Camp Buckner.
“I want the cadets to develop and show passion for their profession and then demonstrate the willingness to learn. During the FTX, cadets need to realize that now is the time to ask questions, now is the time to learn before it fast-forward into two years and then you’re in a real-world situation that demands the skill sets you developed while at the academy,” Ryan said. “I want them to take advantage of the opportunity they have — to lean on the instructors — to ask all the TACs, the DMI personnel — really soak up the entirety of this exercise. Experiment, try, show initiative — learn from mistakes out here and challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone so when you get to the operational force, you have the confidence, not only in your teammates, but in yourself.”