Advanced Camp undergoes significant changes

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Cadets from universities across the nation will soon converge onto Fort Knox for Cadet Summer Training. Some will attend the Basic Camp while others will attend the Advanced Camp. But this year attendees of the Advanced Camp will be evaluated differently than previous years.

Master Sgt. Russ Watts, the CST operations noncommissioned officer, said the 31-day Advanced Camp has undergone some significant changes. Watts pointed out that Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes, the commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, wanted to ensure the cadre were properly preparing the cadets for the Basic Officer Leader Course.

“The CG instituted policy for Advanced (Camp) cadets to pass certain (criteria),” said Watts.

He added that cadets have to pass a physical training test, a written land navigation exam, complete the land navigation course, qualify on the M4 carbine; chemical, biological; radiological and nuclear defense; pass first aid; call for fire and complete a 12-mile foot march to Army standards, which is four hours or less.

He pointed out that another change is evaluating cadets on leadership positions such as being a platoon leader, platoon sergeant and squad leader.

“(We will) hold them accountable for things they have been taught during the last three years of ROTC,” explained Watts.

Watts said the CG has also added another element to make Advanced Camp more competitive for the cadets attending the Advanced Camp. The CG added the Recondo Badge as a way of rewarding cadets who exceed the standards. To be awarded the badge cadets must score 90 or more points in each event and get a 270 or higher on the PT test; first time go in all evaluated tasks, to include first aid, CBRN and the confidence course; 90 percent on the written land navigation exam, find five out of the six points in the land navigation course, complete the 12-mile foot march in three hours or less and qualify expert on the M4 carbine.

“This sets (cadets) apart from those who perform at a low level,” Watts said. “What we found in the past … if you don’t reward excellence there’s no reason to go out there and try your hardest.”

Watts added that the cadre are going to focus more on field craft and increasing the complexity of training.

The field training exercises have also changed. Last year the cadets spent 11 days in the field and this year they will spend 19 total days in the field.

“The big change was instead of living in the large (logistical support areas) and tents we will put them on patrol bases so they can practice field craft before they go out into their FTX,” he said. “If they are at a range they will sleep in a patrol base outside the range.”

Watts pointed out that the CG has also added a Darby Phase which is similar to Ranger School. He said the cadre will lead patrols and demonstrate to the cadets what right looks like. Following the three-day phase of going through troop leading procedures and planning, the cadets will then go into a 10-day FTX with gradually increasing complexity.

Watts added that the cadets will begin with simpler operations and missions, and when they begin demonstrating more confidence and teamwork the challenges will become more difficult. The FTX will culminate with the 12-mile foot march.

Watts said the FTX’s focus isn’t solely on tactical or mechanical comprehension or how well the cadets execute tactics. Cadre will assess and look for leader attributes and competencies that are needed in lieutenants, he said.

“That’s how we will assess the Advance training cadets throughout the entire training cycle,” explained Watts. “As they do the tactics they will be evaluated on how (well they led). How did they motivate their team to accomplish the mission they were given and what did we see in them. Did we see good things and did we see bad things?

“We are going to write that down and make recommendations on whether the cadets move forward or if we decide to not keep them in the program. That’s a big change this year. The CG’s No. 1 priority is to produce quality second lieutenants for the United States Army. He takes that pretty serious.”

Watts added that another preparation for camp was bringing almost 200 cadre to the installation for an eight-day training program called the Observer Controller Training Academy. The end result was a course that was attended by some of the Army’s best leaders and tacticians. These will be the master trainers who guide the cadets during the training cycle. The CG wanted to confirm and certify that the right people were in the right positions this summer.

“Those eight days focused on confirming (that OCTs) know doctrine and (had the ability) to observe, assess the attributes and competencies and how to pull out of the cadets … and develop them,” Watts said.

Watts said five different classes were conducted to train the OCTs.

Although there have been significant changes to the Advanced Camp, Watts said the CG wanted to make sure the cadets are evaluated and assessed in all of the tasks they are expected to know. He also wanted to make sure the cadets were held accountable. And the only way that can be done is to assess their abilities and have them demonstrate and execute tasks.

Watts said there weren’t major changes to the four-week Basic Camp which focuses on skill level one and squad level tactical operations. The course also prepares them for their MS III year.

During Basic Camp cadets learn drill and ceremony, CBRN and first aid training, rifle marksmanship and Army values and history. They will also conduct team maneuvers, battle drill training which will be put to a test during the squad-level FTX.

Watts pointed out that more than 2,500 cadets will attend the Basic Camp this summer. There will be some overlap in the cadre for the Basic and Advanced Camps, too. More than 5,000 cadre are brought in to support CST.

“Basic and Advanced Camp cadre come from U.S. Army Cadet Command, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army Forces Command, the Army Reserve and medical from across the United States,” explained Watts. “We have people coming in to support (CST) from (as far as) Hawaii.” n