Back in the woods of the Squad Situational training exercise lanes (SSTX) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets of 1st Regiment took cover in the lush foliage and awaited the perfect moment to attack. Fifty feet away, two Cadre members were strolling down the lane, posing as fake enemy targets. The Cadets slowly and quietly began to close the gap on their enemies before beginning their ambush. Within seconds, both targets were on the ground and the ambush was complete.
Cadets spend seven days of the Leader Development and Assessment Course at SSTX working on ambushes, attacks, reconnaissance, and movement to tactic. During the first two days, Cadets are trained before they go out in the lanes and execute their new tactical knowledge on days three and four.
Squads spend two hours at each of the six lanes, and six squad leaders are evaluated per day. The following day is a refitting day and days six and seven are devoted to patrolling in which all four squads come together and give the squad leader an idea of what it’s like to lead a platoon of about 45 to 50 men and women.
“Hopefully they work together a little better as a team after this,” said Pvt. Louis A. Harrington, the trainer evaluator for 1st Regiment. “This helps prepare them not only to lead a squad one day but teaches them basic tactical knowledge. No matter what branch they’re in, they’re a Soldier first.”
Cadets typically look forward to SSTX when they arrive at LDAC. They prepare for this event at their respective universities, and arguably since the moment they joined ROTC. Yet, being out on the lanes is much different from what Cadets learn in the classroom.
“We’ve been working on every aspect of these lanes for the past three years, so to finally see a culmination of it all is really cool,” said Cadet Rebecca Wogec, a nursing student at the University of Kentucky-Lexington. “It’s definitely going to test us under pressure, and it’ll help us as leaders in the future.”
Cadet Michael Resendiz from Utah Valley University served as the squad leader for 1st Regiment, Bravo Co., 3rd platoon, 4th squad. Before the mock ambush, he was briefed on the assignment by Cadre and was responsible for communicating and executing a plan with his squad. He took this job seriously, understanding that this training exercise would make him a better Soldier in the future.
“This will help us at a more strategic operational level when we commission as officers,” said Resendiz. “For those that are going into combat arms, this is going to be the foundation that prefaces our advanced training once we leave.”
Cadets receive two out of their four evaluations during these seven days, so doing well is a priority among the future Army officers. Although the event is fun, it is also a lot of hard work and pressure.
“How they do here indicates which component they’ll get in the Army,” said Harrington. “Cadets are excited to do it and excited to get it done at the same time.”
Story by Allie Pasdera.