BAMBERG, Germany -- Soldiers from the 16th Sustainment Brigade took a break from the routine of their everyday jobs to exercise their minds with a four-day Pathfinder pre-course at the 16th Sust. Bde. headquarters here, April 10-13.

The first of its kind at the brigade, the course was put together to help 16th Sust. Bde. Soldiers enrolled in the Army Pathfinder School get a basic understanding of what to expect. A total of 16 students attended the course with representatives from each of the brigade's four battalions.
Army Pathfinders are trained to navigate their way on foot through foreign terrain and establish safe landing zones for Airborne and Air Assault Soldiers or Army aircraft, so attention to detail is critical.

"Pathfinder is a challenging course," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ismael Ramos, the 16th Sust. Bde. support operations senior airdrop systems technician and senior Pathfinder. "The attrition rate is roughly 50 percent. This course is a heart-pumping, high-level stress course. With this preparation, their level of stress will be manageable. The reason for doing this preparation course is to introduce them to the basic concepts."

Two recent 16th Sust. Bde. graduates of the Army Pathfinder School instructed the pre-course; Sgt. Jacob Lewis, a team leader mechanic with the 317th Maintenance Support Company, 391st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, and a native of Garden Valley, Idaho, and 1st Lt. Adam Lutz, with the 23rd Ordnance Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

"Having at least an idea of what to expect will make it a lot easier. People say it's one of the hardest courses," said Lewis who graduated from the school in February. "I think that's because most military schools are more physical than mental. Pathfinder School is strictly mental. It's like going back to high school or back to college and a lot of people haven't studied like that in a long time. That's what I think makes it so hard for people. They're not used to studying. That's why having this prep course helps because they get to create some study habits before they actually go to the course."

The students received a combination of classroom and hands-on instruction ranging from medical evacuation operations, sling load, air traffic control, landing zone and air assault planning.

In preparation for the pre-course, the instructors focused on the most taxing events the students will face when they get to Pathfinder School.

"Sling loads was the most challenging part of course," said Lewis. "It's very stressful because if you miss one little thing you can fail the whole course."

Along with classroom time, the students were given repeated, timed exercises until they completed the required task successfully.

"This course is great because you got to do a lot of hands-on and really get down and dirty with the specifics and details," said 2nd Lt. Christopher Carlstedt, a platoon leader with the 240th Quartermaster Supply Company, 391st CSSB and a native of Littleton, Colo. "I think the instructors really set us up for success with all the hands-on and really going through the sling loads, the deficiencies and what to look for."

"The thing that really struck me about all three of them was that they cared about all of us doing well in the course," said Carlstedt about the instructors. "You could tell that they were dedicated and passionate about this."