When the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division arrived at the U.S. Military Academy to integrate and become the Task Force for this year’s Cadet Summer Training, the Department of Military Instruction planned and made sure they had everything they would need to run CST effectively. The Infantry Brigade Combat Team transported its equipment to Camp Buckner, and by the time the command sergeant major for the 2nd BCT, 87th Infantry Regiment, Michael Espeland, and the main body arrived, everything was set in place to meet DMI’s intent.
“We went through lane validation at the ranges to make sure the training conditions corresponded with DMI’s objective. The process went remarkably well with no issues,” Espeland said. “We really haven’t had many hiccups. If we ever need anything to streamline the training process, we contact DMI and they usually accommodate us.”
Espeland explained the mission is a battalion-sized task force operation with over a 1,000 Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division contributing to the development of cadets. Furthermore, there are many senior leaders with a wealth of experience who went through a well-organized process overseeing CST, and that is mostly due to previous task force commanders refining the training process over the years.
Espeland added the training has been remarkable for the cadets due to senior noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders showing the cadets what they’ve learned throughout their active-duty Army careers.
“I think it’s great for the upcoming cadets and the future platoon leaders to see what the real Army is like from our Soldiers’ perspective,” Espeland said. “It’s also been even better for the task force because we’ve been able to conduct individual skills training with all of the ranges and resources West Point has here and we don’t run into disputes with any brigades over the usage of training space like we do in Fort Drum.”
In the past, the infantry unit would only get 10 slots a year at Fort Drum to conduct Air Assault training, among other training exercises. However, the task force embraced the opportunities West Point presented with Espeland sending his Soldiers to Air Assault School. Additionally, the Air Assault course recently graduated 22 members of the task force, Espeland said.
What’s more, Lt. Col. Josh Glonek, the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment commander, is a West Point graduate. His connection with the academy made it easy for the task force to integrate with staff and faculty, Espeland added. Glonek is also familiar with the terrain of Camp Buckner, which allowed him to adequately coordinate CST training to meet DMI’s intent. Moreover, Glonek’s link to West Point aided Espeland in gaining insight into the mindset of cadets.
“Before coming to West Point, I wanted my Soldiers to understand the cadet’s mindset. They were civilians who recently transitioned into this new, military lifestyle. If we know how the cadets think and operate in relation to the terrain, we can come up with a plan to properly train them,” Espeland said. “Fundamentally, we wanted to show them what right looks like when performing as a Soldier. Discipline, training and uniform standards are some of the major components that we emphasize as we continue to mentor them.”
One of the most important aspects the task force has taken away from this mission is understanding what the cadets go through mentally and physically during training as they develop themselves as future platoon leaders. For Espeland, watching the interactions with NCOs and cadets was one of the most enjoyable aspects of facilitating the training environment, he added.
“The cadets are very familiar with officers at West Point. There are plenty of colonels and lieutenant colonels around, but they don’t get that same level of interaction with NCOs,” Espeland said. “So, it was great to see the cadets come to them on a daily basis to get insight into what it means to be a Soldier and an exceptional leader.”
Espeland believes when the 87th Infantry Regiment returns to Fort Drum after CST, they will be the most prepared battalion in the division. The marksmanship qualification numbers, squad-level efficiency, and individual tasks they performed while facilitating CST helped in improving his Soldiers and it has prepared them as a battalion to qualify for the Expert Infantry Badge and Expert Soldier Badge events coming up in September, he added.
“For future Soldiers who are attached to the CST detail, it is imperative that you come down here with the mindset of developing your abilities and making use of the resources that are available to you while you’re integrated with West Point,” Espeland said. “I firmly believe that giving the cadets the real-world military experience they need to be successful has been just as beneficial for them as it has been for our Soldiers. Everyone has learned and evolved from this experience.”