WEST POINT, N.Y. — What does it take to feel steadfast in knowing you are ready to lead young Soldiers? For Class of 2022 Cadets Quinton Marmo and Jack Brown, the answer lies in the energetic and regimented atmosphere of Cadet Basic Training — Beast Barracks.
With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the two cadets from doing any training leadership details during last year’s Cadet Summer Training, this summer the duo were given the opportunity to serve as platoon leaders for the new cadets during CBT detail I between June 26-July 18 at Camp Buckner.
It’s been over two weeks since “Beast” began, with Brown and Marmo receiving what they consider a first-class education on effectively and adequately leading subordinates.
“I’d say, for the most part, it’s gone pretty smoothly. We have really capable and competent squad leaders like the juniors [Cows] here who help us out with everything. So we definitely don’t do everything on our own. It takes a collaborative effort to make this happen,” Brown said. “We’re also trying to do things a little bit differently than they were done when we went through 'Beast' three years ago.”
One of the primary objectives for the duo was to evolve the training environment to a better, more refined military milieu.
Essentially, it is not about belittling or berating new cadets when they do something wrong. Brown added that there have to be realistic expectations set to lead the cadets properly. In attempting to do anything of worth and merit, a cadet is bound to make mistakes in the process, and an effective leader needs to bear that in mind.
“We’re trying to reinforce that idea of working as a team. We’re not just screaming at cadets and trying to make them feel bad. We’re trying to build that teamwork mindset incrementally,” Brown said. “Building that mindset also involves journaling and reflecting on their accomplishments and failures, having some meaningful conversations with their squad leaders, and looking out for each other. We, as leaders, need to keep having those honest conversations with them, but at the same time, instilling discipline and compliance with Army standards.”
During the two weeks, Brown and Marmo have helped in overseeing the training events for nine companies within the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2025. The training events are staggered based on each company. The new cadet’s journey began with four days of the Reception, Staging, Onward-movement and Integration event as they were issued all of their uniforms and equipment.
They would then sit in classrooms or auditoriums and receive briefings and lectures on what CBT would entail.
Subsequently, CBT started with two days of learning basic lifesaving skills in an auditorium through the Combat Lifesaver course. Soon after, the cadets transitioned to Basic Rifle Marksmanship training, where they spent nine days shooting pop-up targets.
Following this week of training, the cadets will learn to operate in a chemical environment at the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) range, conduct rifle qualification, and perform at the machine gun, grenade launcher and hand grenade range within the upcoming weeks.
“These two cadets got put in these positions and assigned with Capt. Patrick Harris, the G-4 tactical officer, and myself and we, as a team, had to create a unit,” and Sgt. 1st Class Taracus Jones, the E-4 tactical NCO. “We have a first sergeant, commander, we have an executive officer, we have a training officer, platoon leaders who oversee platoon sergeants, and then you have all the squad leaders. Getting to this point as fast as we have is mind unraveling for me. We really had to build that trust and understand how each of us thinks so we can make it work as a team.”
Marmo added working with Jones and the rest of the unit has allowed him to refine his own leadership style. Part of that refinement comes with not changing who you are as a person, Marmo added.
“Staying true to myself comes with my leadership style. I don’t need to scream at all the new cadets. Constantly doing that doesn’t always come across well when you are trying to create a leadership style that is genuine,” Marmo said. “So learning and watching other squad leaders and platoon leaders and how they interact helps me understand how effective they are with how they choose to lead the new cadets. Also, what people respond to is something I pay attention to when creating my leadership style.”
As the two cadets get through the final week of this detail, one of the main aspects of this experience they hope to improve on is building and managing teams. Brown added that learning to form a dedicated group of reliable team members comes with knowing how to observe when to step back and allow his subordinates to interpret his orders and execute the mission effectively.
“The experience of managing people and managing teams is crucial for the both of us. Making sure that the new cadets are looking out for each other and that they’re doing the things that you expect them to do even when you’re not around is essential,” Brown said. “I think proper management skills is something all of us are going to need in the big Army. At some point, as platoon leaders, after we graduate, we will be in charge of Soldiers. So, you have to understand how to interact effectively with them to ensure that when they receive the mission, they’re going to carry it out successfully.”