Spread out in the Washington woods crouching in the thick brush, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets of 1st Regiment used hand signals to indicate forward movement during Tactical Lead Training.
TLT is a seven-day training exercise for Cadets at the Leader Development and Assessment Course that focuses on their leadership abilities as future second lieutenants. The first two days the focus is on learning but on the third and fourth day, Cadets are evaluated based on their leadership abilities.
Cadets lead a group of 11 to 12 other Cadets and in some cases will lead as many as 48 during TLT.
“That will make them better leaders for their Soldiers because they’ve had the chance to develop their leadership skills out here first,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Minami.
Cadets rotate who is in charge of the squad, giving everyone a chance to learn and lead. With rifles in hand at a low ready, the squad members fanned out in the woods, patrolling the area before they carried out their mission.
By spending the first few days learning how to lead a squad in tactical training, Cadets prepare for their LDAC evaluation.
“Working as a team, that’s the most important thing I think,” said 1st Reg. Cadet Wilson Cheng of Norwich University. “We’ve been here two weeks together so we know our strengths and weaknesses.”
Understanding the components of the lanes before being evaluated is a key feature of TLT. Rehearsing how to correctly go through each scenario will help Cadets get a better score when they are leading their squad or platoon in later days at LDAC.
To work up to the two-day overnight patrol operation at the end of TLT, this learning phase is crucial for Cadets to understand what to do in different scenarios and how to lead their squad through a mission.
“I was looking forward to coming out here and working with members of my squad that were unfamiliar with it [tactical leader training] or that didn’t feel very strong at it so we could give them good feedback,” said 1st Reg. Cadet Tiffany Farrar of Florida Institute of Technology. “When we are going into these next few days with the squad training and the platoon training, we are kind of up at the same level.”
The training environment has been instrumental in teaching about leadership, tactics and the cohesion of squads.
‘It definitely allows us to make mistakes in a very safe environment,” said Farrar. “We are comfortable risking things and trying new things because if we make mistakes here, people’s lives aren’t on the line.”
Despite having one leader in charge of the squad, Cadets helped each other with the mission plans, using what they learned at different schools to figure out the best way to approach a scenario.
After the seven days, Cadre hope the Cadets get a better grasp of what it means to be a tactical leader in a squad.
“I hope that they are inspired to want to be Army officers,” said Minami. “[I hope] that they are eager to graduate and lead our nation’s soldiers.”
Story by Sara Nahrwold.