By Mike Strasser, West Point Directorate of Public Affairs and CommunicationJuly 29, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 29, 2010) -- Thirty-six hours entrenched in patrols, ambushes and reconnaissance missions ... a pungent odor trails a squad of cadets on maneuvers. There's only so much a baby wipe can do against two-day-old sweat, foot powder and bug spray.
One cadet trudging through an early morning recon muttered through stifled breath: "You can't photograph this smell."
The Seventh Company cadet commander, Class of 2011 Cadet Paul Demeo, actually considers them lucky to have the exhaustive squad situational exercise as their last event at Cadet Field Training for the Class of 2013. After nearly four weeks of land navigation, combatives, marksmanship and other military exercises, in a sense, he said, they get to leave it all in the field and then go home.
"I think we lucked out," Demeo said. "Our schedule was such that we've had time to prepare for each mission without getting completely broken down."
Demeo frequently ventured outside the patrol base to check on operations for his company.
"Walking through with the squads, I can see what they are capable of, what they know, and how well the Yearlings have picked up on the training we've provided," the Derry, N.H., native said. "I'm also looking at the platoon leaders, squad leaders and platoon sergeants, and how well they know their jobs and if they're getting their squads where they need to be."
Compared to the CFT he encountered two summers ago, Demeo said this class of Yearlings have it tougher in terms of distances covered. During just the three-day land navigation event alone, Yearlings logged 45 kilometers on foot ... then another eight kilometers infiltrating to the squad situational exercise ... then the final Runback from Camp Buckner to West Point.
"These cadets have been outstanding," Demeo said. "I don't know if it's because of the chain of command, or if we 've just got a good group of Yearlings, but they're always working hard, always motivated and continually getting something out of the training. Even when they've had rough days, I see them putting forth a lot of effort at the end of the day."
After completing her first academic year at West Point, Yearling Cory Trainor also saw the field training as a chance for her to bond with fellow cadets. Developing that esprit de corps meant a lot to Trainor, especially during the brutal Squad Situational Training Exercise.
"I was a team leader, walking around at 3 a.m., making sure everybody was pulling security and doing their jobs," Trainor said. "Just like them, I only wanted to sleep, but I had to motivate them to stay awake. "It was definitely difficult, but together we made it through," she added.
Whereas last year's summer training focused largely on following instruction, CFT was their opportunity to lead.
"We practiced being team leaders and learned to not only do (our) own jobs, but to take care of your team, to make sure the job gets accomplished by everybody," Trainor said.
Overcoming a series of highs and lows throughout CFT was worth it, Yearling Trevor Hanson said, because it meant advancing from cadet private to corporal.
"It's been a long year, and looking back to Plebe (freshman) year and the transition from Plebe to Yuk, it's pretty amazing," Hanson said.
That transition, from follower to leader, is just beginning for the new cadet regiment at Cadet Basic Training, and Hanson looks forward to assisting in their development.
"CFT really prepared us a lot to be team leaders," Hanson. "We learned a lot of things to help develop our plebes and make them effective members of our Corps."