A Soldier, similarly to any sturdy structure, is only as strong as the foundation laid at the beginning of the building process. That concept is one of the driving concepts behind some of the changes cadets can expect to see at this year’s Cadet Summer Training.
Most of the changes to the training will be seen in Advanced Camp, with a few minor adjustments to Basic Camp.
The changes are results of direction from Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, said Lt. Col. Robert Schiller, chief, G37 Cadet Summer Training.
“The GG’s guidance was to get back to a little more field craft, so all of the things that are changing this summer get back to that—putting some of the challenges and grit back into the cadet’s life during cadet Summer Training,” he said. “There’s balance between challenging a cadet to where they are just surviving, or challenging them to where they can thrive.”
Master Sgt. Russ Watts, noncommissioned officer in charge for CST operations, said Advanced Camp Cadets will notice a renewed focus on basic Soldier tasks—providing that strong foundation to build advanced leader concepts upon.
“What we want to do is create a building block to have that foundation in tactical knowledge so they can add upon that at the asic Officer Leader Course,” he said. “We expect them to be able to execute tasks, but we also need them to have the basic knowledge they need to be successful and we have to build that.”
In that spirit, this year Advanced Camp cadets are going to be tested and expected to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, performing a “call for fire,” chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear defense tasks, first aid, a written land navigation exam and be able to find four of six points on a land navigation course.
“We’ve adjusted the focus from pure experiential learning, to now we are going to ensure fundamental task comprehension and ability to execute basic Soldier tasks,” Watts said. “We are also focusing on troop leading procedures and leadership attributes and behavior identification and assessments during two field training exercises. Those FTXs will progressively increase in complexity.”
Watts said Advanced Camp cadets will also have more training and practice tactics during a several day period, known as the Darby phase, prior to heading out for field training exercises. They will also get a deliberate “planning day” before FTXs.
“The Darby phase ensures everyone is on the same sheet of music and understands basic levels of tactics, so when they get to the portion where they will be assessed on their leadership attributes and behaviors, tactical competence, they all have a common frame of reference to go back to,” he explained. “In the past, we threw them into an ambiguous scenario and really just watched them figure it out to come up with unique ideas on how to solve these complex problems.
“The first phase is showing them what right looks like, last summer we were a little too much key leader engagement specific and focused around operations in a village. Now the focus is on closing with and destroying the enemy, and if needed there is a village where they may have to go to solve some problems through KLEs.”
Schiller said those changes will help mold cadets into leaders who can make their own decisions, based off of some tried and true experience.
“You hear the term, ‘think outside the box a lot,’ but cadets need to know what’s in the box before they can think outside of it,” said Schiller. “We’re not teaching them what to think, but how to think. We’re showing them repetitive situations and once they see that and understand the basic foundation, then we can add injects to move the scenario and challenge the status quo of what they’ve already seen.”
Adding to that, this year some of the opposing forces for Advanced Camp will be more of a peer-to-peer fight, said Watts.
“We’re bringing that back and expanding it by creating a leadership opportunity for our strong MS1s and MS2s,” he said. “They will come here and serve as OPFOR on either the first five regiments or the last five regiments in the Darby phase of Advanced Camp - having the same capabilities, equipment and knowledge.”
Another change in Advanced Camp this year is the return of the Recondo Badge. Cadets will be able to earn the badge if they meet the following criteria: score a 90 points or better in each event on the APFT; score expert in basic rifle marksmanship; receive a first-time “go” on first aid and call for fire; score a 90 or higher on the written land navigation test and find five out of six points on the land navigation course; complete the rappel tower, receive a first-time “go” on all of the obstacles on the confidence course; and they must complete a 12-mile foot march in under three hours. On top of that, cadets will have to be successful in all of their leadership opportunities and can’t have any moral or ethical violations throughout camp.
This summer cadre will ensure each cadet gets the requisite number of leadership opportunities to allow them to be assessed, mentored and coached, said Schiller. They’ll get two leadership opportunities in the garrison environment and two during the FTXs.
“It’s a minimum of four, and anything outside of that would just be extra,” he said.
Cadets will not receive Cadet Officer Evaluation Reports as a part of CST—those will only be done on campus to reflect the entire school year. For Advanced Camp, Cadets will receive an Advanced Camp Evaluation Report—covering the roughly four weeks of training.
For Basic Camp, the biggest change cadets will notice is who their primary trainers are over past Basic Camp rotations.
“We’ve used drill sergeants for Basic Camp for as long as anyone can remember, but this summer they will be getting out in front of the formations more often and showing the cadets what our NCO Corps can do,” said Watts. “We’re asking the drill sergeants to be our primary trainers for camp. The only time we will get away from that will be during tactics and platoon operations.”